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3 suspected smugglers face federal charges following seizure of nearly 3-ton marijuana load in Channel Islands

March 23, 2015

SAN PEDRO, Calif. – Three Mexican nationals who were allegedly piloting a panga interdicted Sunday that was loaded with nearly three tons of marijuana are expected to make their initial appearance in federal court later today to face drug trafficking charges.

The three men were taken into custody early Sunday on San Miguel Island by personnel from the Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. The complaint affidavit was prepared by a Drug Enforcement Agent (DEA) assigned to the Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Taskforce.

The incident began unfolding after a good Samaritan spotted the panga on the island and immediately contacted law enforcement officers at the Maritime Coordination Center in Long Beach, Calif. A CBP Office of Air and Marine Black Hawk helicopter was launched and flew over the northwest end of the island. After spotting the suspects, the helicopter touched down and the three men were detained.

The Coast Guard Cutter Halibut arrived on-scene, where the three suspects were transferred aboard.  The Halibut crew towed the panga and 5,700 pounds of marijuana back to Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach, where the suspects and contraband were turned over to HSI special agents assigned to the LA BEST. This is another successful example for the Department of Homeland Security’s Regional Coordinating Mechanism (RECOM), which focuses all the department’s efforts in the region. 

The seized pot has an estimated street value of close to $3 million.