Southern California breaking news and trends

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

charleschandler/Flickr

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.

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Coast Guard detains three alleged drug smugglers after boat catches on sandbar off Malibu coast

Photo by Michael McCullough via Flickr Creative Commons

Pangas

A sailing tip: Never go out on the water stoned, or you might run aground.

And never go out on the water carrying bags of smuggled marijuana in a panga boat, or you might run aground, then be arrested by the Department of Homeland Security.

That’s more or less what happened Tuesday night, Coast Guard officials say, after a small vessel was seen stuck on a sandbar off the coast of Latigo Beach in Malibu at about 10:30 p.m.

Although reports differ on some of the details, three men were definitely spotted -- indeed, they were filmed, as this NBC report shows -- throwing their cargo overboard before shoving off for deeper waters in an apparent effort to escape Coast Guard officials.

The men were intercepted about two miles offshore, according to KTLA, and arrested on suspicion of drug smuggling. Their jettisoned cargo is believed to be bales of marijuana, and officials said the three men and their panga were from Mexico.

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