Southern California breaking news and trends

Update on panga smugglers: Jettisoned pot valued at more than $1 million


Small boats, called pangas, are used in Mexico to fish. They are about 20 feet long, and with two or three outboard motors on back, a smuggler can take a load of up to 20 people far up the coast.

Officials gave an update today on the three alleged drug smugglers seen tossing containers out of their panga boat last night off the Malibu coast: Those containers were actually bales of marijuana, officials said -- 80 in all, with an estimated value of well over $1 million.

Yesterday’s arrests were only the latest in what Coast Guard and Homeland Security officials call a growing trend: Smugglers from Mexico, carrying both drugs and people, are plying the waters farther north along the California coast in an effort to evade stepped-up patrols near the Mexican border.

The 80 bales of pot so far recovered weigh about 20 pounds each, Homeland Security officials said. Since October of last year, authorities have seized almost 16,000 pounds of marijuana from maritime smuggling operations along the coast from San Diego to L.A. counties, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The figures were reported in a wire story posted by the LA Daily News.

In last night’s incident, three men were filmed in the act of tossing bales out of their panga -- a small open fishing boat with an outboard motor -- at about 10:30 p.m. off the coast of Latigo Beach in Malibu. The men had gotten stuck on a sandbar, officials said, and were trying to jettison the incriminating evidence.

They then freed themselves from the sandbar and led Coast Guard officials on a chase before being caught about two miles out to sea, according to reports.

The three men have not yet been identified. ICE officials say they and their boat are from Mexico. The boat was towed to Marina Del Rey, and the men reportedly are being held at a detention center in San Clemente.

Below is an interesting Google map showing “Alleged smuggling vessels discovered in Southern California.” The farthest north a smuggling operation has been caught, according to this map, is Gaviota.

View Alleged smuggling vessels discovered in Southern California in a larger map

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