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Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 28
Officers catch 18 people attempting to smuggle pot into Santa Barbara County via panga
BY AMY ASMAN
Seven of the 18 people arrested for allegedly transporting more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana via panga to Arroyo Quemada Beach in Goleta were scheduled to appear in a Los Angeles federal courtroom Sept. 16.
According to an affidavit provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Cortez-Garcia, Carlos Cortez-De La Cruz, Manton Pine, Josh Jimenez, Juan Carlos Godinez, Jesus Lopez, and Rafael Garcia are being charged with aiding and abetting the possession of, with the intent to distribute, marijuana.
On Sept. 13, members of the California National Guard saw a boat come ashore at Arroyo Quemada Beach. The guardsmen continued to watch as a group of men unloaded what appeared to be bales of drugs from the craft.
A multi-agency task force comprised of officers from the Santa Barbara and Ventura county sheriff’s departments, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations, California Highway Patrol, and the U.S. Coast Guard responded to the scene.
When law enforcement agents made it to the beach, the suspects took off running in multiple directions; they were later found hiding in bushes. Authorities arrested 18 people at the scene and seized more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana.
Homeland Security agents also stopped a truck suspected of being associated with a drug smuggling operation in Camarillo. The people in the truck fled the scene on foot; they were still at large as of Sept. 16. However, the agents did seize more drugs and other evidence.
“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,” David Wales, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, Ventura, said in a press release.
According to data from the Department of Homeland Security, there have been 10 panga incidents in Santa Barbara County since October 2012. Eight of those boats were used for drug smuggling, one was used for human trafficking, and one carried both drugs and people. The most recent incident ups the number of total arrests to 33 and the amount of marijuana seized to almost 10,000 pounds.