18 People Arrested Following Panga Boat Take Down
Santa Barbara - September 13th, 2013
Early this morning, Friday, September 13th,
several California National Guard members observed a vessel come ashore at
Arroyo Quemada beach and witnessed a group of about 19 suspects offloading
suspected bails of narcotics from the boat. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s
Office responded with Patrol Deputies, the Sheriff’s Special Enforcement Team,
two K-9 Units and Sheriff’s Narcotics Investigators. Personnel from U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations
(HSI) and the California Highway Patrol also responded. The Ventura County
Sheriff’s Department assisted with a K9 Unit and air support since fog
prohibited Santa Barbara County Aviation resources from responding to the
location. The United States Coast Guard also supplied air and marine support
for this incident.
Upon the arrival of Sheriff’s
Office resources at the location, the suspects took off running in different
directions and were found hiding in the bushes. Through the collaborative
efforts of the involved agencies, 14 people were arrested at the scene and more
than 2000 pounds of marijuana was seized.
Subsequent to the arrests, a
truck that was suspected of being associated with this drug smuggling incident
was located and stopped by HSI agents in Camarillo. During this vehicle stop,
occupants of the vehicle jumped out of the truck and fled on foot. Marijuana
bales and other evidence linked to the panga found at Arroyo Quemada were found
in the vehicle.
Around 11 a.m., Sheriff’s
Deputies located and arrested four additional suspects who were hiding in the
vicinity of the Arroyo Quemada incident location. The Sheriff’s Office is
requesting that anyone who observes an individual who may be associated with
this case to immediately call law enforcement.
The case has been turned over to
HSI, which is leading the ongoing criminal investigation. While the identities
of the suspects are not being released until they are formally charged by the
U.S. Attorney’s Office, many of those detained were from the Los Angeles area.
The panga takedown is a great
example of how federal, state and local agencies are coming together to address
the recent increase of illegal maritime drug smuggling activity on the central
coast. Several commanding officers who lead the partner organizations involved
in combatting this criminal drug trafficking enterprise offered their reactions
to the arrests.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff
Special Investigations Bureau Lieutenant Craig Bonner offered, “The success we
experienced last night is a testament to the continuing combined efforts and
cooperation between our local, state and federal agencies, in combating these
multi-jurisdictional/multi-national criminal enterprises.”
David Wales, assistant special
agent in charge of HSI Ventura said, “This interdiction clearly shows our joint
efforts to target this type of smuggling activity are having an impact,” ASAC
Wales, further commented, “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.”
Lewis of the California National Guard said, "The California National Guard is
proud to support multi-agency, drug interdiction operations that work to ensure
the safety of Californians.
According to the Department of
Homeland Security data, since October of 2012, there have been ten panga events
in Santa Barbara County (8 drug smuggling/1 human smuggling/1 combination)
involving 15 apprehensions and the seizure of 9,735 lbs. of marijuana.
For Media Inquires Contact PIO Kelly Hoover
Business Hours: (805) 681-4100