press release - 09131301

Recovered Narcotics


Recovered Narcotics


Panga Boat


Panga Boat



Bales of Marijuana


Bales of Marijuana

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.” 

Col. Todd 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


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