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 New boat will help SLO CO. Sheriff's Office with pangas
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5 months ago

New boat will help SLO CO. Sheriff's Office with pangas

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors recently approved accepting federal grant money that would help the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office acquire items used for pangas, Sheriff's Office Spokesman Tony Cipolla tells KSBY News.

The items include a 27-foot defender class boat, which Cipolla says will mainly be used after the pangas come ashore.

Right now, he says the Sheriff's Office has to contract the towing out, but with the new boat, officials can now tow the pangas themselves, saving the County some money.

Cipolla says since 2012, 12 pangas have been found in San Luis Obispo County and 62 pang-related arrests have been made.

Around 35 of those people are still in County jail.

Cipolla says deputies patrol the coastline several times a week.

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5 months ago

Officials gather to discuss panga boat issue

Federal, state and local law enforcement officials gathered Monday in Santa Barbara to discuss the problem of panga boat smuggling. Over the past few years, an increasing number of the boats have been found on Central Coast beaches. They are most often used to smuggle drugs, and sometimes people, from Mexico to California. "The transnational smuggling of drugs and people via the Santa Barbara County coastline is a significant threat to the safety and the wellbeing of our community members, and that's why we are committed to insuring the ongoing safety of our local communities, our state, and indeed, our country," said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown. Brown said there have been 42 total panga boat landings since 2010, and law enforcement has seized more than $71-million worth of marijuana from those boats.    
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5 months ago

Capps, law enforcement meeting to talk about panga boat prevention

Congresswoman Lois Capps is holding a meeting Monday with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials to talk about panga boat smuggling along the Central Coast.

Capps and law enforcement officials from Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura Counties will talk about maritime border security, panga deterrence, and what resources authorities need to stop illegal activity.

There has been an increase in the number of panga boats delivering drugs to the Central and South Coast in the last two years.

Most have been used to transport large amounts of marijuana.

Investigators from both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties have seized thousands of pounds in separate seizures within the last year.

Last year, the Coast Guard seized 81,000 pounds of marijuana along the California coast.

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7 months ago

Panga found Sunday morning is first in nearly two years to not transport drugs, officials say

A panga found early Sunday morning near Cambria is the first boat to land on the Central Coast that the sheriff's office does not believe carried any drugs, officials say.

A spokesman for the sheriff's office says, due to items found near the boat, including water bottles, sunscreen, sea sickness medication, and more life jackets than normal, they believe the boat was only carrying people because it did not have storage space to transport drugs.

Officials say around 12 pangas have landed on the Central Coast since May 2012, but officials say this is the first that indicates no drugs were being transported.

The boat was turned over to Homeland Security Sunday evening.

No arrests have been made.

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7 months ago

Sheriff's office investigating panga boat on Cambria beach

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office is investigating a panga boat that was found near a hiking trail across from San Simeon Campground.

They received the report at about 7:15 Sunday morning, and came across the boat near Cambria. The Sheriff's Office says items in and around the panga boat indicate it was carrying people.

Deputies are checking the area for possible vehicles and people associated with the boat.

So far, deputies have not discovered any drugs or arrested anyone.

They say this boat is slightly different from others that have been recently recovered on the Central Coast, because it doesn't have storage space to transport drugs.

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8 months ago

Panga intercepted in Channel Islands

Two people were detained Saturday morning after law enforcement officials intercepted a panga in the Channel Islands.

The U.S. Coast Guard says crews on routine patrol spotted the 35-foot panga southwest of San Nicolas Island early in the morning.

A law enforcement team was deployed to investigate and a pursuit began, officials say.

Other agencies also helped out and the boat was stopped southwest of Santa Rosa Island.

The Coast Guard says two people were inside the panga, along with 122 bales of marijuana, which were confiscated.

Photo courtesy: U.S. Coast Guard

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9 months ago

Super panga comes ashore with 4,000 pounds of drugs

Investigators say a super panga boat was discovered on a beach in Cayucos Wednesday. The term "super" refers to the size and load that comes off these boats commonly referred to as pangas, used for smuggling drugs.

This is only the second super panga to show up in San Luis Obispo County.

Bird watcher and photographer Marlin Harms stumbled upon a rare find Wednesday and it wasn't a long lost bird species.

"The first thing I saw as I looked down the bluffs was a huge pile of big sacks," said Harms.

What he found was 4,000 pounds of marijuana.

"But I was actually kind of anxious to not stick around because I didn't know if there were any people around," said Harms.

And rightfully so, say Sheriff's deputies, because the suspects who fled the scene most likely work for the dangerous and notorious Mexican drug cartels.

The Sheriff's Office calls them super pangas because they range from 45 to 55 feet rather than the typical 30 foot boat. Mounted on the back of the boats are two massive engines. Each $80,000 engine has nearly 350 horse power.

They say bigger boats means bigger loads coming ashore and more illegal drugs on the streets.

"I've heard of it up by Cambria, San Simeon, but this is pretty close to my home in Morro Bay," said Harms.

The drugs found Wednesday are valued around $10 million depending on the quality of the drugs.

Deputies say the pangas originate from Northern Baja Mexico and can get to the Central Coast in a day or two.

Deputies are still searching for any suspects involved in Wednesday's smuggling attempt.

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9 months ago

Panga, drugs found on Cayucos beach

Authorities are on scene in Cayucos after a large panga and 3,500 to 4,000 pounds of marijuana were found on the beach.

The boat and more than 80 bales were found Wednesday morning.

Authorities say the 45-foot boat is considered a super panga because it is bigger than most pangas and has larger engines.

At this time, authorities say no one is in custody, but they are searching the area.

KSBY has a crew on the scene.

For more on this story, watch KSBY News tonight at 5 and 6.

9 months ago

Deputies find panga boat north of San Simeon

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office says it found an abandoned panga boat on a beach six miles north of San Simeon.

Investigators say someone reported the boat around 5 p.m. Monday evening.

The Sheriff's Office says whoever was offloading the boat was interrupted and left some narcotics behind.

So far, deputies have not arrested anyone.

9 months ago

Possible panga boat sighting

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office says deputies are looking for a panga boat that may have come ashore in the San Simeon area.

A Sheriff's Office representative says they received information about a possible panga boat in the area and are also checking for vehicles that may be transporting drugs southbound on Highway 1.

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1 year ago

15 panga boat suspects in custody

According to San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Deputies, 15 people are in custody in connection to a panga boat drug smuggling operation.

Late Tuesday night, Immigration Custom Enforcement Agents saw a large motor home heading westbound early Wednesday morning on Highways 46 and 101. They followed the motor home from Highway 46 to Highway 1. It was then joined by two cargo vans and a passanger sedan. The four vehicles then drove towards San Simeon.

Deputies managed to stop the motor home where they say they found large bales of marijuana in the motor home, sedan, and one cargo van.

There was a chase on Southbound Highway 1 with one cargo van near the summit on Highway 46. That van went over a cliff.

While searching for any passengers in that van, authorities found a hole in a fence that led to the panga boat.

The investigation is ongoing, as well as a search for outstanding suspects.

1 year ago

Deputies find Panga Boat just north of Cayucos

San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Deputies say they found a Panga Boat near Cayucos Saturday morning.

A California Highway Patrol fixed wing aircraft saw what looked like an abandoned Panga Boat on the beach just north of Cayucos.

Sheriff's Deputies, detectives, State Park Rangers, and CAL FIRE arrived at the scene and found a 45 foot boat.

No drugs were on the boat, but officers found 15 fuel containers on the boat, which they believe could have been used to transport narcotics.

The boat has been taken to Morro Bay for further investigation.

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1 year ago

Arrests made after Panga Boat spotted in Santa Barbara County

The Department of Homeland Security says five people were detained Sunday in connection to a Panga Boat found at Tajiguas Beach in Santa Barbara County

Investigators say three Mexican nationals were charged federally for allegedly unloading bales of Marijuana from the boat. The fourth person was released, and the fifth person was held on immigration violations. The boat was spotted at 2:30 a.m.

California State Parks, The Department of Fish and Game, Border Patrol, California Highway Patrol, Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, and Homeland Security were on scene.

The three people charged in connection to unloading the boat will be charged Monday or Tuesday. 3,393 pounds of Marijuana were recovered at the scene.

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1 year ago

GQ: Why is the panga boat so popular with smugglers?

Last week alone, drug smugglers made two more runs to the Central Coast. An beached panga boat was found at San Simeon, then 18 people were arrested when a panga was caught near Refugio State Beach. That raised this question: Why are panga boats so popular with smugglers? Good Question. The answer of the panga boat shape. Its wide, flat bottom allows the boat to ride buoyantly with a heavy load, like the 4 or 5 tons of marijuana plus a dozen people on a typical run. It can be have a tough time in heavy seas but navigates easily in shallow waters and can be run right up onto a beach for off-loading. A panga sits low in the water with sides usually painted blue, making it hard to spot in open waters. Smugglers cover the boats with a blue tarp so they can't be seen by eyes in the sky. At night the tarps make Coast Guard heat-seeking technology almost useless. The pangas range from 25 to 40 feet long and carry up to 4 outboard engines. They can reach speeds of 45 miles an hour or more and can outrun most Coast Guard vessels. A typical smuggling run starts in Mexico when a loaded panga heads 100 miles out to sea. It then turns north for 300 miles, refueling with barrels of gas it carries or by meeting up with a "mothership" at sea. When it's parallel to a pre-determined beach, it heads the 100 miles back to shore and offloads to a waiting van. Panga is an African word meaning "thin blade" referring the long, thin shape of the boat. Friend me, John Reger, with your Good Question. The only bad question is the one you don't ask.
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1 year ago

18 people arrested following panga boat incident in Santa Barbara County

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office reports 18 people were arrested Friday after members of the California National Guard spotted a panga boat at Arroyo Quemada beach.

The National Guard says they saw about 19 people unloading suspected narcotics from a boat on the beach.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office Special Enforcement team, K-9 units, and Narcotics Investigator team responded. The Ventura County Sheriff's Department and United States Coast Guard also helped.

Sheriff's Deputies arrested 14 people at the scene and seized more than 2000 pounds of marijuana.

At 11 a.m. Friday, Sheriff's Deputies arrested four more people who were hiding in the area.

The investigation has been turned over to the ICE Homeland Security Investigations.

The Sheriff's Office has not released the identities of the suspects.

If you see anyone you think may be involved in this case, call law enforcement.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, 10 panga boats have been found in Santa Barbara County since October 2012.

1 year ago

Panga boat found at Santa Barbara County beach, arrests made

Officials confirm to KSBY News that arrests have been made in association with a panga boat and what is believed to be bails of marijuana found at a Santa Barbara County Beach.

ICE officials say surveillance showed the boat coming ashore on Arroyo Quemada Beach around 12 a.m. Friday. They say the surveillance indicated the boat was beaching itself and bails of suspected marijuana were being off-loaded.

Officials with Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Coast Guard, Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Customs and Border Protection responded.

Fourteen people were arrested at the scene and approximately 2,000 pounds of suspected marijuana was seized, according to officials.

ICE officials say Homeland Security Investigations agents also stopped a vehicle in Camarillo. They say the people inside ran away, but suspected contraband was found inside. So far, no arrests have been made in connection with that incident.

The investigation is ongoing.

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1 year ago

Panga boat found near San Simeon campground

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office confirms to KSBY News that a panga boat has been found near San Simeon campground. Officials say someone saw the boat on the beach Tuesday morning and reported it to authorities around 8 a.m. No arrests have been made, but Sheriff's officials say they did find one bail of marijuana. Stay with KSBY.com and watch KSBY News tonight at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. for more on this developing story.

1 year ago

Panga boat suspect sentenced

The final person involved in a drug smuggling operation at Montana de Oro State Park was sentenced Tuesday.

Francisco Diazgarcia was sentenced to two years behind bars. He had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport marijuana.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's deputies say they spotted a group of 14 people unloading drugs from a panga boat in Montana de Oro State Park back in May.

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1 year ago

5 more panga boat suspects sentenced

Five more people accused of smuggling drugs in a panga boat earlier this year have been sentenced.

Simon Escobar-Quiroz, Waldo Rodriguez, Hector Augustine, and David Tenas have all been sentenced to between two and five years in jail.

Jessica Garcia has been sentenced to felony probation.

All five pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport marijuana.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's deputies say they spotted a group of people unloading drugs from a panga boat in Montana de Oro State Park back in May.

Fourteen people were found and arrested.

The last person to be sentenced, Francisco Diaz-Garcia, is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport marijuana and is facing two years in jail.

1 year ago

Two panga boat suspects sentenced to two years

Two of the people involved in a drug smuggling operation were sentenced Wednesday.

Valter Augustin and Eugenio Bonilla will each spend two years in jail.

Both had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a crime of transporting marijuana.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's deputies say they spotted a group of people unloading drugs from a panga boat in Montana de Oro State Park back in May.

A total of 14 people were found and arrested. Four others were sentenced earlier in August.

1 year ago

Some panga boat suspects sentenced

Four of the 14 adults arrested in connection with the discovery of a panga boat at Montana de Oro back in May were sentenced Monday.

Eric Carrillo, Jose Mendoza, Mario Baguada, and Juan Cruz each received between two and four years behind bars for conspiracy to transport marijuana.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's deputies say they spotted the group unloading drugs from the boat.

The remaining suspects will be sentenced later this month.

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1 year ago

Panga boat found at Tajiguas Beach

A driver on Highway 101 called 911 early Monday morning after spotting what appeared to be a panga boat on the shoreline of Tajiguas Beach in Santa Barbara County.

The Sheriff's Office says investigators located a 30-foot abandoned panga boat on the beach.

It says evidence of drug trafficking was found at the scene. The area was searched, but no one was found.

1 year ago

Panga boat suspects enter pleas

The 14 adults arrested in connection with the discovery of a panga boat at Montana de Oro have all now pleaded to conspiracy to transport marijuana or transportation of marijuana.

They each face between two and five years behind bars.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's deputies say they spotted the group unloading drugs from the boat.

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1 year ago

Panga suspects appear in court

Eleven of 14 people suspected of attempting to smuggle drugs into the Central Coast appeared in court Thursday.

Deputies patrolling the coastline spotted the suspects unloading a panga boat at Montana De Oro State Park on May 29.

The suspects were stopped on Los Osos Valley Road after the boat was discovered.

Three of the suspects pleaded no contest Thursday to conspiracy to transport marijuana and offload marijuana from a panga boat.

They are eligible for two years in county jail or prison followed by possible deportation following time served.

One other person pleaded no contest to conspiracy to transport marijuana and being in possession of a firearm.

They are facing three years in county jail or prison and possible deportation following time served.

They will be sentenced next month.

The seven other suspects will be going to trial on Aug. 6.

Three other suspects have already pleaded guilty and will be sentenced next month.

For more on this story, watch KSBY News tonight at 5 and 6.

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1 year ago

San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Office finds panga-style boat

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office found an abandoned panga type boat in a remote cove north of Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Sunday morning.

Officials say they found the boat around 9:30 a.m.

According to reports, the boat contained evidence indicating some of the cargo on board had been hand carried away from the beach.

Officials say the boat is similar to other panga boats they've found along the Central Coast.

Sheriff's detectives, State Park Rangers, and the U.S. Coast Guard are still investigating the incident.

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1 year ago

Sheriff's officials find panga boat on Tajiguas Beach

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's officials say they recovered a panga boat in the county.

They say early Monday morning, an off-duty Sheriff's Deputy spotted a possible panga on the shore of Tajiguas Beach. Investigators found a 25-foot boat with evidence scattered on the beach north of Refugio State Beach.

Based on the evidence that included fuel containers, clothing, and trash, investigators say they were unable to immediately determine if the boat was used to smuggle drugs, or for human trafficking.

Officials say this is the third panga found near Refugio State Beach in recent months. The last one was found on May 17.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, Department of Homeland Security, California State Parks, and U.S. Coast Guard are all helping in the investigation.

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1 year ago

UPDATE: 15 people arrested after panga boat discovery

The San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Office says a total of 15 people, 14 adults and one 17-year old, are in custody in connection to the discovery of a panga boat and drugs on Wednesday.

Deputies patrolling the coastline say they spotted the men unloading the panga boat at Montana de Oro State Park early Wednesday morning.

The 15 people face charges of transportation of marijuana for sale, possession of marijuana for sale, and conspiracy.

Investigators say they confiscated 53 bales of marijuana totaling 1,909 pounds. The drugs are estimated to have a street value of $1.3 million.

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1 year ago

What happens to a panga boat after it's seized?

California's beaches are no stranger to panga boats.

On Wednesday, 14 people suspected of using a panga boat to smuggle marijuana into the country, were arrested and taken to San Luis Obispo County Jail. The boat was found early Wednesday morning on a remote beach at Montana De Oro State Park.

Now that the suspects are behind bars, what happens to the panga boat?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it hired a company to remove the boat from the beach, most likely a tug boat. After it's taken out on the water, the boat will most likely be towed to Long Beach, where it's then stored in a warehouse with other seized items.

"Usually they are held as evidence during the criminal proceedings, where they are held until they are forfeited and ultimately destroyed," said David Whales, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

But if a panga is in good condition, the boat will be auctioned off to try and offset the cost, explained Whales.

Officials said the removal, transportation and storage of a panga can cost thousands of dollars.

As far as the drugs seized, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said they will be destroyed.

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1 year ago

Fourteen under arrest after panga boat found in Montana De Oro State Park

Fourteen people are in custody tonight after the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office says they were attempting to smuggle drugs into the Central Coast.

Deputies patrolling the coastline spotted the suspects unloading a panga boat at Montana De Oro State Park.

According to Homeland Security, smugglers using panga boats attempt to land up and down the California coast at least twice a week and the majority are not apprehended; however, thanks to some sharp eyes and quick instincts, 14 people found themselves in handcuffs on Wednesday.

The Sheriff's Office says the 14 men caught with large quantities of drugs and cash near a remote trail at Montana De Oro early in the morning are facing federal drug smuggling charges.

"We noticed they were offloading some folks into the park. That's when we decided to keep surveillance on them," said San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Office spokesman Tony Cipolla.

Around six deputies watched the men begin to offload the drugs into at least four vehicles and initiated a traffic stop shortly after.

"Here's a little duffle bag that we assume they were transporting drugs in," said Cipolla as he walked the suspected smugglers' route.

"What you're seeing is just a lot of packaging material, a lot of debris," said Cipolla.

Most of the evidence is tagged and collected.

Police found water bottles and also hope to find fingerprints or DNA that may help link the suspects to the crime.

Police marked evidence along the trail including a switch blade. Police say they believe it was used to reduce the size of the packaged drugs on the panga boat, making them more manageable for the half-mile hike up to awaiting vehicles.

The amount of the drugs has not been released but according to Homeland Security, the average load is around 2,000 pounds, with a street value of $5,000,000.

Police continued to take photos and collect additional evidence from the boat throughout the day.

All 14 men were taken to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's station for processing. That's where Homeland Security will take it over and conduct their own interviews

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1 year ago

Sheriff's Office: At least 12 people in custody after panga boat washes ashore at Montana de Oro

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's officials say they are still looking for one person in connection to a panga boat that washed ashore at Montana de Oro Wednesday morning.

Sheriff's officials say at least 12 people were taken into custody in two separate locations on Los Osos Valley Road after four vehicles were stopped.

They say some drugs have been seized.

Traffic is no longer backed up on Los Osos Valley Road.

Stay with KSBY.com and watch KSBY tonight at 5 and 6 for the latest on this developing story.

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1 year ago

Sheriff's Office: Panga boat washes ashore at Montana de Oro, several people in custody

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office says multiple people are in custody after a panga boat washed ashore at Montana de Oro Wednesday morning.

Sheriff's officials say four vehicles were stopped on Los Osos Valley Road and some drugs have been seized.

Traffic on Los Osos Valley Road in the Los Osos area is backed up.

Stay with KSBY and KSBY.com for the latest on this developing story.

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1 year ago

Panga boat washes up on Arroyo Quemada Beach

A resident found a "Panga" Boat on Arroyo Quemada Beach, north of Refugio State Beach, around 8:15AM on May 17th. Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office Patrol Deputies, along with Narcotics Investigators, responded and located the 35-foot boat on the beach.


Investigators found items of potential evidence inside and on the ground next to the boat, including clothing, fuel containers and other miscellaneous trash type items. Although no marijuana was discovered in the boat or surrounding area, plastic packaging commonly used for marijuana smuggling was found near the boat and heading up the path to the roadway.


Santa Barbara County Air Support Unit Copter 1 assisted with searching the surrounding area for suspects and evidence. Representatives from California State Parks, Homeland Security Investigations, California Highway Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard also responded to the scene.


This is the second "Panga" discovered on Arroyo Quemada beach in recent months. The last one was found on March 17th along with more than 2,000 lbs. of marijuana wrapped in plastic bales concealed in bushes near the roadway.


The Sheriff's Office Special Investigations Bureau is working with Homeland Security to investigate the recent increase of "Panga Boat" activity in our area.


The Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office is asking the public to be aware of the ever-growing problem and to please contact Law Enforcement immediately if they see any suspicious boats in the ocean off Santa Barbara County or any suspicious activity on Highway 101 where there is coastal/beach access.

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1 year ago

Panga boat found in Santa Barbara County

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department found a panga boat below the Point Conception Light House on Cojo Ranch Thursday morning.

Sheriff's officials say Jesus Garcia-Guzman from Mexico stored the drug at the base of a nearby cliff adjacent to the boat.

Deputies say the boat had nearly two thousand pounds of marijuana, with an estimated street value of $4 million.

A county helicopter assisted in removing the marijuana from the beach because the cove where the boat was found was inaccessible by vehicle.

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1 year ago

Sheriff's Office: Panga-style boat, around 2,000 pounds of marijuana found near Santa Barbara beach

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office says a panga boat and approximately 2,000 pounds of marijuana was found north of Refugio State Beach early Sunday morning.

Sheriff's patrol personnel and Sheriff's Narcotics Investigators were called out to the area of Arroyo Quemada Beach where they say the 30-foot panga-style boat with more than 20 fuel containers onboard was found.

Officials say the evidence recovered, including 50 plastic-wrapped bales of marijuana found nearby, was consistent with marijuana smuggling activities.

The marijuana bales have an estimated street value of $4 million.

The Sheriff's Narcotics Investigation Unit, in conjunction with federal investigators from HSI, will continue to examine and process the seized evidence as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

The immediate area was searched by a Sheriff's K9 unit, but no one was found.

Officials say over the last year, more than 20 panga-style boats have been found on the Santa Barbara coastline.

1 year ago

Panga Boat found on the beach in Goleta

A county parks employee found a panga boat at 5:18 a.m. Friday on the shore at Goleta Beach.

The abandoned panga boat was about 30 feet long and had about a dozen lifejackets and more than 15 containers of fuel on board.

There were signs of food and clothing in the boat but no drugs. No arrests have been made in connection with the boat, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies from the Sheriff's Office conducted the initial investigation; the case has now been turned over to the Department of Homeland Security.

This is the first panga boat found in Santa Barbara County this year. Last year more than 20 incidents involving panga boats were reported in Santa Barbara County.

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1 year ago

3,000 pounds of marijuana found on panga boat

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's deputies arrested a total of 11 people after discovering a panga boat containing 3,000 pounds of marijuana off the Gaviota coast early Wednesday.

The U.S. Coast Guard had been tracking the panga boat between San Nicholas Island and the Santa Barbara coastline and alerted Santa Barbara County law enforcement just after midnight.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office personnel, including three K9 units, along with officers from the California Highway Patrol, UC Santa Barbara Police Department, and State Parks responded to the area of Hollister Ranch Road and searched the coastline under the lights of a Coast Guard helicopter.

At about 2 a.m., eight people were arrested. Of those arrested, five gave Southern California addresses and three said they were from Mexico.

Then, shortly before 8 a.m., a sheriff's helicopter conducting a search spotted three additional suspects. Deputies took the second group into custody and took the suspects to a holding facility where they were released to Homeland Security Investigators.

1 year ago

Illegal immigrants paid $9K to panga smugglers

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Federal authorities say nearly two dozen illegal immigrants arrested this week paid smugglers up to $9,000 each for a seagoing trip on a panga boat to the United States.

Authorities intercepted the 27-foot, single-engine panga on Monday morning and arrested 25 people on a Los Angeles County beach near Rancho Palos Verdes. Panga fishing boats are often used by smugglers.

Four men are facing smuggling and conspiracy charges.

The Daily Breeze in Torrance says passengers told investigators they met smugglers in Tijuana and paid $3,000 to $9,000 for rides to the United States.

The passengers, most from Mexico, said the trip was tense because the smugglers argued over engine noise and twice threatened to throw one of the passengers overboard because he was overweight.

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1 year ago

Panga boat found near Gaviota State Beach

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department officials say they located a panga boat early Wednesday morning.

Officials tell us the boat was spotted west of Gaviota State Beach near Hollister Ranch.

The U.S. Coast Guard, California State Parks, U.S. Border Patrol, and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department are all on scene looking for suspects.

Some suspects are in custody.

Panga boats are typically used to smuggle drugs into the United States.

We'll bring you the latest information on this panga boat incident as soon as it becomes available to KSBY News.

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1 year ago

25 held from suspected panga boat on LA County beach

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Authorities have intercepted a suspected smuggling boat and arrested 25 people on a Los Angeles County beach.

U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Jerry Conlan says the panga boat was spotted just before dawn Monday and it came ashore at a Portuguese Bend beach near Rancho Palos Verdes.

Pangas are open hull fishing boats often used for smuggling drugs or people from Mexico.

The suspected illegal immigrants tried to hide but 25 were captured by 8:30 a.m. It's unclear if any of those arrested are smugglers.

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies are among several law enforcement agencies searching the area.

Earlier this month, a U.S. Coast Guard chief petty officer was killed when his small boat was rammed by a panga off Santa Cruz Island.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

1 year ago

Memorial slated for LA-area Coast Guard member

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach will hold a memorial for the executive petty officer of the cutter Halibut who died from injuries caused by a boat collision while investigating suspected smuggling activity in the Channel Islands.

The ceremony remembering Senior Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne will be held Saturday afternoon at Reservation Point on Terminal Island.

The memorial will not be open to the public.

Horne was aboard a small boat deployed from the cutter to intercept a panga boat running without lights near Santa Cruz Island early Sunday.

Authorities say the panga rammed the Coast Guard boat, throwing Horne and another crewman into the ocean. A propeller struck Horne in the head. The panga was eventually stopped and two Mexican nationals were arrested and charged with killing Horne.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

1 year ago

Coast Guardsman fired gun to avoid fatal crash

SAN DIEGO (AP) - A criminal complaint says the Coast Guard fired several gunshots from an inflatable boat before it was slammed by another vessel, killing an officer.

The criminal complaint filed against two Mexican nationals aboard the suspect vessel disclosed the gunshots and other measures taken by the crew to avoid getting hit early Sunday near the Channel Islands, about 180 miles northwest of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III died from head trauma after being struck by a propeller.

Using an inflatable boat, Horne and his team came within about 20 yards of the suspect vessel at 1:20 a.m. The Coast Guard boat flashed its blue lights and the crew ordered the suspects to stop before the other vessel gunned its engine, knocking Horne and a colleague into the water.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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1 year ago

Coast Guard member dies in panga boat bust

"He's the best shipmate I've ever known, he was a friend, he was a big brother to us all, and he's absolutely irreplaceable."
Holding back tears, Coast Guard shipmates of Terrell Horne talk about their fallen comrade.
The Coast Guard member was killed in waters off the South Coast Sunday after alleged drug smugglers crashed their panga boat into a Coast Guard apprehension vessel.
The Coast Guard says Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, 34, died from a traumatic head injury when he was struck in the head by the propeller of the panga boat.
It happened Sunday morning near the Channel Islands on the Ventura-Santa Barbara county line.
They say the smugglers intentionally ran their boat into a small Coast Guard boat, at high speed.
Two Coast Guard members, including Horne, were thrown into the water.
This is the first run-in with smugglers this year where a law enforcement member has been killed.
"They've shown a willingness to take aggressive action against law enforcement officers, if they're willing to do that, they're also willing to do that to any civilian who might come across their activities," says Commander Jim Taylor of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office.
With the Central Coast now becoming a key target for drug smugglers, local law enforcement and federal agencies are teaming up.
"They're going to find a way to try and come here, you can't just turn a blind eye to it and you can't allow it to happen," says Taylor.
Airplanes, choppers, boats and law enforcement on foot converge on the Central Coast drug war.

"Typically some of the things that the deputies would look for would be suspicious vehicle traffic, large vehicles, moving vans," says Taylor.

Smugglers are also known to use RVs like the one that was used as a getaway in a recent bust where more than four thousand pounds of dope was found.
The sheriff's office also says they are increasing patrolling along the Northern Coast, an area where four panga boats have been found this year already.
"We've also secured a second ICE agent who will begin working with the sheriff's office at our narcotics unit in January," says Taylor.
But will all this come with a hefty price tag for local tax payers?
According to the sheriff's office, no. Commander Taylor says they have secured a federal grant in October that will pay for the increased enforcement efforts.
"It's the additional resources that the county simply cannot afford by itself and to have the commitment from the federal government, and now I think an even more increased commitment because of the problem, it's reassuring to us that we can manage this problem effectively," says Taylor.
The sheriff's office says the federal grant was awarded in October and will provide $50,000 a year.

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1 year ago

Coast Guard member killed after run-in with panga boat

A U.S. Coast Guard member is dead after officials say the vessel he was on was hit by a Mexican-style panga boat, throwing him and another member into the water.

It happened just before 2:30 Sunday morning near Santa Cruz Island.

Officials say a Coast Guard maritime patrol aircraft detected the panga boat, and sent the Coast Guard Cutter Halibut out to investigate.

They say the cutter then sent its small boat out, which was operating without any type of running lights.

They say when it approached the panga boat, it turned on its blue law enforcement light and the suspects' vessel sped toward the Coast Guard's smaller boat, hitting it before taking off.

Officials say the two Coast Guard members were thrown into the water after the crash, and were immediately picked up by the Coast Guard's boat.

Officials with the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office tell KSBY 34-year-old Terrell Horne III, 34 from Redondo Beach, was killed.

Coast Guard officials say although first aid was administered on Horne III, he was pronounced dead at the pier in Port Hueneme after suffering a traumatic head injury.

They say the other member suffered minor injuries.

Other Coast Guard members stopped the panga boat shortly after the incident, and took two people into custody.

The incident is under investigation.

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1 year ago

Three arrested, two on the run after panga boat found near Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

A third man has been arrested in connection with a panga boat that was found abandoned on the shore just north of Piedras Blancas Lighthouse on Tuesday.

A California Highway Patrol officer saw Jose Lopez Lopez, 44, on Tuesday just after 8:15 p.m. on Highway 1.

The CHP says Lopez initially gave a false name to the officer. He was arrested on suspicion of failing to provide identification as well as providing false identification.

He was arrested and booked into the San Luis Obispo County Jail.

He was arrested because officers believed he was connected to the abandoned panga boat because of items he had on him.

Two men, Luis Osiel Gonzales, 23, and Juan Pedro Gonzales, 23, were arrested earlier in the day.

The search continues for two more men who were believed to have been involved with the panga boat.

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1 year ago

Sheriff's office identifies suspects in panga boat bust

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office has identified the two men taken into custody after the discovery of a panga boat off San Simeon early Tuesday as Luis Osiel Gonzalez, 23 [pictured], and Juan Pedro Gonzalez, also 23.

Luis Osiel Gonzalez is in custody on suspicion of felony obstruction/resisting a peace officer and battery on a peace officer.

Juan Pedro Gonzalez was arrested on suspicion of giving false identification to a peace officer and is currently on an immigration hold.

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1 year ago

Another panga boat found in same area as last three

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's deputies discovered a panga boat early this morning in the area of Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. That area is becoming synonomous with panga boats. This is the fourth to be found there in the last few months.

When deputies arrived, they saw five men near the boat. The men ran off, and after a short scuffle, one was taken into custody. Deputies caught up with another man and are still looking for the others.

About four miles north of Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, sheriff's deputies noticed an open gate leading to a remote beach area.

"When they arrived on site, they discovered five men in the field, the five men took off, the sheriff's deputies took off after them," says Tony Cipolla, public information officer for the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office.

After a scuffle that left one deputy with minor injuries, two suspects were taken into custody.
Thats when deputies discovered the panga boat.

"No drugs were found at this time, but about thirty containers of fuel were found, we believe it may have been a supply boat that was helping out another panga boat," Cipolla said.

According to homeland security, that's not uncommon. Many times these types of boats will refuel at sea, and this may have been the vessel that brings that fuel to smugglers waiting for the right opportunity to come ashore.

Air support, K9 units and ground units were brought in from multiple agencies to search for the remaining men.

"This is becoming a real issue here on the Central Coast, the sheriff is very concerned about this because it impacts our resources at the sheriff's office and then you also have the criminal element," Cipolla said.

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1 year ago

Second suspect arrested after panga boat discovery

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's deputies have arrested a second suspect after the discovery of a panga boat off the coast of San Simeon early Tuesday.

One deputy received minor injuries after a scuffle broke out during the capture of the first suspect, the sheriff's office said.

Sheriff's deputies, Sheriff's K9 units, a CHP plane and a Coast Guard helicopter searched for three other men believed to have been on the boat.

No drugs were found, but investigators say the boat is consistent with narcotic smuggling operations. About 30 containers of fuel were found floating in the water next to the boat.

Watch KSBY News at 5 and 6 p.m. for more on this story.

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1 year ago

PHOTO: Panga boat found near Piedras Blancas lighthouse

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's deputies made one arrest after finding a panga boat near the Piedras Blancas lighthouse early Tuesday.

Deputies say one man was taken into custody but four others got away. No drugs were found on the boat.

Watch KSBY News at 5 and 6 p.m. for more on this story.

1 year ago

One suspect arrested, four on the run after panga boat found near Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's deputies are on scene of a panga boat found on the shore near Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, north of San Simeon.

It was discovered around 4:40am Tuesday when deputies found an open gate in a field. Upon further investigation, deputies spotted five men who took off running when deputies arrived.

One man was captured and arrested. Deputies are currently searching for the four men who fled.

The panga boat did not contain any drugs and is said to be 28 feet long with about 30 containers of fuel on board.

KSBY has a crew headed to the scene and will bring you the latest on this developing story.

1 year ago

SLO Co. Sheriff's Dept. finds panga boat near Cambria

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Deputies say they found a panga boat near Cambria.

They are still on scene and very little information is being released at this time.

They do tell KSBY News the boat was discovered early Tuesday morning around 4:30 a.m.

Panga boats are typically used to smuggle drugs.

Stay with KBSY News for more on this developing story.

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1 year ago

Drug wars hit Central Coast waters with no signs of letting up

The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Department of Homeland Security are analyzing evidence found in a panga boat they seized Wednesday near San Miguel Island, off the Santa Barbara County coast.

Two-thousand pounds of marijuana were seized. Panga boats are the newest tool for drug smugglers and they are almost impossible to stop.

They are low, open fishing boats that are popular in mexico. Drug smugglers are putting high-speed motors on them and moving drugs up the coast of California.

"They have unlimited resources, unlimited funds and it presents an ongoing challenge," says David Wales of U.S. Homeland Security.

"It's a boat that sits very low on the water, there are two very powerful motors on the back of it, it's filled with fuel and marijuana," says Commander Aaron Nix of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office.

"They're willing to go to just about any means, and that can lead to violence," says Wales.

In the last few years, Homeland Security and customs agents have seen a massive spike in drug smuggling on the Pacific Ocean.

"We've had about a four-fold increase in the seizure amounts from last year to this year."

Homeland Security says more than one hundred thousand pounds of marijuana have already been seized this year. The street value: $500 million.

Agents say the pangas usually take off from northern Baja, Mexico with multi-person crews. Most of the landings are on beaches along San Diego and Los Angeles counties.

"I kind of liken it to a balloon affect, as the pressure is applied else where they will move to avoid that pressure," says Wales.

Law enforcement pressure is now squeezing the drug trade north to the Central Coast.

"They're going to try and make landfall on a beach, and put their load on the beach where they have a waiting off load crew," says Wales.

With their low profiles, the pangas are hard to spot in open water. But as investigators find more boats on the beaches and make more arrests, they are learning how these types of operations work and are fighting back.

"Because of some of the successes we've had in interdicting these smuggling operations, they have been changing their tactics, and they have switched over to having pleasure boats rendezvous with these vessels and they will actually transfer loads at sea," says Wales.

"This is a billion dollar industry," says Wales, "and the people that operate these cartels live quite a lavish life style."

One of the main enforcers in the fight against smuggling is a ship called the Black Fin.

"She's a multi-mission maritime asset, so that means she does search and rescue, we do law enforcement and a variety of other tactical duties," says Lt. Tony Gregg.

Gregg says it's one of the most advanced boats in the Coast Guard.

"She's built for speed, she's also built for torque, so she's very capable at towing, she's very capable at topping out and chasing," says Gregg.

And she has to be. Panga boats are known to travel at speeds of over 40 miles per hour.

"Nobody wants to be caught," says Gregg. "And it's usually a high-speed chase, typically."

The Black Fin and her crew have a solid record against the boats. They've busted eight panga boats filled with marijuana and one with cocaine. For that they are awarded special commendations that are displayed on the side of the ship.

"The one there on the left is a cocaine bust, and then you can see the marijuana leaves there with a red X through them, each one of those represents a successful case that Black Fin has prosecuted," says Gregg.

Homeland Security and the Coast Guard co-ordinate the busts like military missions: air support uses advanced night vision cameras to spot smugglers under the cover of darkness.

Some battles are won, but the cartels might be winning the war, successfully landing at least one shipment a week on U.S. shores. That adds up to millions of dollars worth of drugs every month.

"As the coast guard gets a new weapon in this fight, a new tool or a new policy or new tactic to prosecute this mission, certainly the smugglers are adapting to that," says Gregg.

The Black Fin was actually the boat that boarded and detained the smugglers from Wednesday's bust, so it looks like they'll be adding one more commendation to the side of that boat.

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1 year ago

Panga boat intercepted off Santa Barbara County coast

Coast Guard and Customs and Border Control officers on Wednesday tracked and intercepted a panga boat that ran out of fuel in the waters just north of San Miguel Island. That's off the Santa Barbara County coast.

Officers say they detained three men who were onboard and confiscated 35 large bundles of marijuana. California Highway Patrol officers on the Central Coast were notified and stepped up shoreline patrols in the area.

2 years ago

Panga boat found near Piedras Blancas

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department says a panga boat was recovered in the surf just north of Piedras Blancas Friday morning, but there was no sign of any suspects or drugs.

Investigators found clothing and six gasoline containers near the boat. They say it appears the boat was used to transport marijuana. The boat was in the same location where panga boats have previously been discovered in San Simeon.

2 years ago

Update: San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Office has 20 suspects in custody after a panga boat was found

San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Office says they now have 20 suspects in custody after a panga boat was found off the coast of San Simeon. Initially, deputies believed there were 21 people involved but after investigating realized one suspect was not associated with the incident.

Sheriff's deputies and agents with State Parks and the Department of Fish and Game responded to the beach Thursday at 6:30 am. A California Highway Patrol plane and helicopter were also seen circling the area.

Deputies have confirmed 43 bales of marijuana were found on the boat. That's more than 3,000 pounds of drugs with an estimated street value of $4.5 million.

A witness said people on the beach, near the boat, were carrying the parcels to a motor home.

A white truck and a black sedan were also spotted and believed to be connected to the motor home.

Multiple traffic stops were held resulting in two suspects being arrested in the sedan and 12 suspects from the motor home.

After an extensive search with deputies and K-9 units multiple suspects were found hiding nearby in the brush.

In total, 20 suspects were taken into custody in connection.

Since the panga boat was found in such a remote location the CHP assisted in airlifted the marijuana off the beach using its helicopter.

The suspects are detained in the San Luis Obispo County Jail and will be transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angles on Friday.

2 years ago

Update: 21 suspects now in custody after panga boat found off the coast of San Simeon

The San Luis Obispo Sheriff Office says they now have 21 suspects in custody. A panga boat was spotted off the coast of San Simeon near the Piedras Blancas lighthouse at 6:30 Thursday morning.

Sheriff's deputies and agents with State Parks and the Department of Fish and Game responded to the beach. A California Highway Patrol plane and helicopter were also seen circling the area.

Deputies have confirmed more than 30 bales of marijuana was found on board the panga boat.

A witness said people on the beach, near the boat, were carrying the parcels to a motor home.

A white truck and a black sedan were also spotted and believed to be connected to the motor home.

Multiple traffic stops were held resulting in two suspects being arrested in the sedan and 12 suspects from the motor home.

After an extensive search with deputies and K-9 units multiple suspects were found hiding nearby in the brush.

In total, 21 suspects were taken into custody in connection.

Since the panga boat was found in such a remote location the CHP assisted in airlifted the marijuana off the beach using its helicopter.

Officials are still on scene investigating the incident.

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2 years ago

14 suspects arrested after panga boat found off the coast of San Simeon

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office received a call after a panga boat was spotted off the coast of San Simeon near the Piedras Blancas lighthouse at 6:30 this morning.

Sheriff's deputies and agents with State Parks and the Department of Fish and Game responded to the beach. A California Highway Patrol plane and helicopter were also seen circling the area.

Along with the panga boat, deputies said they found a large number of bales of what appears to be marijuana.

A witness said people on the beach, near the boat, were carrying the parcels to a motor home.

A white truck and a black sedan were also spotted and believed to be connected to the motor home.

Multiple traffic stops were held resulting in two suspects being arrested in the sedan and 12 suspects from the motor home.

Officials are still on scene investigating the incident.

2 years ago

Panga boat found off the coast of Santa Barbara

State Parks officials spotted a boat off the coast of Santa Barbara near El Capitan State Beach and Refugio State Beach at about 1:30 Thursday morning.

U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested 13 passengers, 4 of which were U.S. citizens, 8 were from Mexico and 1 was from El Salvador.

Approximately 5,000 pounds of marijuana was seized from the boat.

The Coast Guard, Border Patrol, Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are assisting in the investigation.

2 years ago

Panga boat found near El Capitan State Beach

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY - Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Deputies are helping State Parks investigate a panga boat found near El Capitan State Beach.

At least 10 people are in custody, and they are looking for others who have fled the area.

Right now, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, Border Patrol, the Coast Guard, and the Highway Patrol are working on the incident.

There are reports that CHP is using a helicopter to look for packages in the water.

We'll bring you more information as it comes into our newsroom.

2 years ago

Smuggler gets 6 years for half-ton of pot in panga

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A Mexican drug smuggler has been sentenced to six years in federal prison for bringing a half-ton of marijuana to the United States in a panga boat found west of Malibu.

Los Angeles prosecutors say 29-year-old Pedro Lopez-Rocha will be deported to Mexico after serving the sentence imposed on Monday.

The Ventura County Star (http://bit.ly/Q4itJE ) says Customs and Border Protection agents arrested Lopez-Rocha and two other Mexican men on Jan. 15 after the panga landed along Pacific Coast Highway in the Deer Creek area of Ventura County.

They were unloading more than 45 bales of marijuana.

Investigators say Lopez sent a text message to someone in Los Angeles notifying him that the panga from Ensenada was coming ashore.

The two codefendants were sentenced earlier to a year in prison.

2 years ago

6 caught off-loading drugs from panga boat on South Coast

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office says six people are facing drug charges after they were caught off-loading marijuana from a panga boat on the South Coast.

The joint ongoing investigation between the Santa Barbara Count Sheriff's Office Special Investigation Bureau Narcotics Unit, Special Enforcement Team SWAT, Ventura County Sheriff's Office Narcotics Bureau, California State Parks, and the California Highway Patrol culminated early Friday morning on El Capitan State Beach.

Detectives say Habel Herrera of Mexico, David Arredondo of Compton, Martin Guzman of Compton, Marco Rangel of Mexico, Mauricio Brito of Compton and Deiber Chavez of Los Angeles had around 1,400 pounds of marijuana with them.

The men were arrested for transportation and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and booked into Santa Barbara County Jail. Detectives say the drugs have a street value of $4.2 million.

2 years ago

Panga boat found beached near San Simeon

Investigators worked a good portion of the day to remove fuel and marijuana from a panga boat discovered in San Luis Obispo County.

Fish and Game wardens discovered the 35-foot boat about two miles north of Piedras Blancas near San Simeon. The boat was loaded with 55-gallon drums of fuel and around 20 one-hundred-pound bales of marijuana, according to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department.

A CHP helicopter helped remove the fuel while sheriff's deputies used ATVs to move the drugs from the boat.

It's not clear how many people were on the boat when it was beached, but deputies did find footprints in the sand. The sheriff's department also does not know why the boat was beached, but a spokesperson says it could have something to do with the high winds. The boat is in a remote location and will take some engineering to remove, so deputies hope to pull the boat from the beach late Thursday or Friday morning.

The boat had two outboard motors, a sheriff's department spokesperson says. Authorities say panga boats are often used to transport drugs because they can maneuver quickly. They've turned up all along the California coast, but this is the first time in recent history a panga boat has been discovered in San Luis Obispo County, according to the sheriff's department.

2 years ago

Panga boat spotted off the coast of Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office says a 30 foot long boat was found at six Wednesday morning on the shore south of Refugio Beach.

The sheriff's office says there was evidence the boat had been used to smuggle illicit drugs. Panga boats are often used to transport illegal immigrants and narcotics from Mexico to the United States.

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2 years ago

Panga boat found on the South Coast will be turned over to the federal government

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office says it will turn over a panga boat found near Montecito to the federal government.

The 30-foot, abandoned boat was spotted near Fernald Point Wednesday morning. The sheriff's office says no one was found during a search of the shoreline, but a number of life vests were found suggesting at least 20 people had been onboard the boat at one point.

Panga boats are commonly used by fisherman in developing countries, however, they have recently been connected to drug smuggling operations on the South Coast. At this point, it is not clear if the boat found on Wednesday was used in a drug smuggling operation.

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2 years ago

Panga boat spotted 200 yards off shore near Montecito

A 30-foot panga boat was spotted Wednesday morning 200 yard off shore near Montecito, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol searched the area and shoreline but did not find any people. They did, however, track down several life vests on shore, suggesting about 20 people may have been on board. Panga boats are commonly used for smuggling narcotics from Mexico to the United States.

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