A predawn interdiction on Wednesday led to the capture of 10 illegal immigrants caught with 2,500 pounds of marijuana on a Mexican "panga" boat along the Ventura County coast just north of Los Angeles.
California National Guardsmen, working in support of the Central California Maritime Agency Coordination Group, initially spotted the vessel offshore and relayed the information to the U.S. Border Patrol. The agents discovered a 27-foot boat loaded with several bales of marijuana. In addition to the marijuana, authorities also seized two vehicles linked to the smugglers.
"This interdiction illustrates our ability to analyze information and execute a collaborative operational plan with our partners to deploy a rapid response to mitigate this threat," said Justin Delatorre, acting assistant chief patrol agent with San Diego Sector Border Patrol.
Agents said four suspects arrived on the panga boat and were immediately taken into custody. An additional six were arrested on the beach landing area. Moving forward Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) will further investigate the maritime smuggling attempt.
"This interdiction clearly shows our joint efforts to target this smuggling activity is having an impact," explained Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for ICE HSI in Los Angeles. "Today's enforcement action should send a strong message to the criminal organizations in Mexico responsible for these incidents in Southern California that we've got them in our cross-hairs."
The apprehension of the maritime marijuana smuggling crew displays the coordination of multi-agencies interdiction of illicit drugs along California’s long coastline.
"Close collaboration with our partners has helped us ensure the success of this operation so we can uniformly keep our streets safe from illegal drugs," said Capt. Roger Laferriere, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach. "We look forward to continued success through close partnerships."
The Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said the partnership with federal agencies leads to safer streets for residents along the coast. "We look forward to continuing to work together to keep our county safe."
Due to the escalating number of maritime smuggling incidents along the coastline, authorities have intensified efforts to target the illegal activity by expanding the use of marine patrols, land-based surveillance with the collaboration of Mexico.
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