Smuggling Boat Found
Santa Barbara County, Refugio Coast - January 3rd, 2012
The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office is asking the public to be on the lookout for Mexican smuggling boats that have been spotted recently off the Santa Barbara Coastline.
Sheriff’s detectives remained with the boat during the day awaiting a towing ship to arrive from the Santa Barbara Harbor. Detectives planned on examining the boat for additional evidence after moving it to the harbor. While waiting for the towing vessel the Panga boat succumbed to the growing surf and heavy outboard engines mounted on the back. The rear portion of the boat broke off and the vessel sank in about 30-40 feet of water. Cleanup efforts were resumed this morning by the Coast Guard who salvaged the large fuel tanks and debris. The boat itself remains in the water and is no further value as evidence. The outcome of the vessel is undetermined at this time.
As recently as yesterday morning, Monday 1-2-2011, a “Panga” boat was discovered abandoned off the coast north of Refugio Beach. Although the boat was empty, there was evidence it was used for illicit drug trafficking. The boat was noticed during the early morning hours by off duty Sheriff’s Deputies commuting to work. They notified the Sheriff’s Emergency Communication Center who notified on duty personnel and a Detective from the Sheriff’s Intelligence Unit. Responding personnel confirmed the vessel to be a Panga boat.
Panga boats are small open watercraft powered by one or more outboard motors. They are commonly used by fishermen in developing countries and have become increasingly popular with smugglers who are transporting, illegal immigrants, narcotics, or other contraband from Mexico to the United States.
Panga boats are typically between 19 to 28 feet in length, but the boat recovered north of the Refugio Coast yesterday was 30 feet. Although relatively small in size, Panga boats are considered very sea worthy and have made illegal runs from Mexico to as far north as the San Francisco Bay Area. The boat discovered yesterday is capable of transporting upwards of 2000 pounds of cargo.
The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office is asking the public to be aware of the growing problem and to please contact law enforcement if they see any suspicious boats in the ocean off Santa Barbara County. They can also call the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) toll-free 24-hour tip line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE.
Photos of the Panga boat seized yesterday are being provided with this news release as an example, but it should be noted that the size and color of the boats may vary.
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