Coast Guard Rescues Stranded Smugglers


A panga boat carrying 18 passengers who lacked any life preservers lost power about 5.5 miles offshore Laguna Beach and was seized about 4:40 a.m. Monday by a patrolling Coast Guard boat, a spokeswoman said.

The 18 suspected illegal migrants were outfitted with life preservers by their rescuers and brought aboard their 87-foot craft before being taken to Dana Point, where they were met by waiting U.S. Border Patrol officers, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Allyson Conroy from San Diego.

The panga boat, outfitted with a single outboard motor, had no identifying marks as to its origin and had not put out a distress signal because it lacked any communication equipment, Conroy said. “It’s a pretty dangerous operation,” she noted. “The water is 59 degrees; that’s almost instant hypothermia.”

While Monday’s interdiction was the first seizure this year in open water, human smuggling incidents at sea are clearly rising along southern California’s coast. “As the land border has gotten so tight, that’s where they go next,” Conroy said.

Earlier this month, Border Patrol agents arrested eight male Mexican nationals in San Clemente after they were illegally smuggled into the country by boat. Last December, a witness reported seeing 10 occupants of a boat ditched at Crystal Cove State Park flee before authorities arrived.

Monday, Feb. 7

Fraud. 9:45 a.m. 30800 block of Coast Highway. An investigation is underway involving a Texas man who is suspected of siphoning $44,000 from the account of a hotel using phony checks with the hotel’s account number.

Fraud. 1:18 p.m. 300 block of Forest Avenue. An unknown suspect made two wire transfers to a New York bank of $62,000 taken from the account of a local resident.

Threats. 1:32 p.m. 300 block of Glenneyre. Amy Pembrook Walker, 50, of Shasta, was arrested for suspicion of making racial threats to a library patron. She was held for $50,000 bail.

Vandalism. 4:42 p.m. 200 block of Wave Street. Tail lights of a vehicle were broken.

Tuesday, Feb. 8

Fraud. 11:03 a.m. 200 block of Forest Avenue. A customer who purchased a $500 necklace made payment on a closed account.

Stolen card. 1:18 p.m. 100 block of Coast Highway. A man who left his wallet on a bus learned its finder had charged $150 worth of cigarettes to his credit card.

Drug arrest. 1:27 p.m. Vista del Sol and Coast Highway. Mason Miller, 26, of Aliso Viejo, was arrested for a parole violation and offering to furnish drugs. Bail was set at $25,000.

Traffic stop. 9:38 p.m. St. Ann’s Drive. A 20-year-old San Diego woman was arrested for DUI and held for $2,500 bail.

Wednesday, Feb. 9

Traffic stop. 12:58 a.m. Point Place. A 39-year-old Ladera Ranch woman was arrested for DUI and held for $2,500 bail.

Auto theft. 11:14 a.m. 1200 block of Coast Highway. Someone attempted to hotwire a vehicle.

Suicide attempt. 1:55 p.m. Vista del Sol. Alerted by Riverside authorities of a potentially suicidal driver in possession of a handgun, police located the vehicle in south Laguna and detained the driver for psychiatric evaluation. A firearm was removed from the truck.

Threats. 4:16 p.m. El Morro School. A mother of a 10-year-old boy reported that her son received threats online from a 12-year-old. Parents were contacted.

Fraud. 5:36 p.m. 3000 block of Nestall Road. An unknown person made $250 worth of unauthorized charges to various Long Beach stores on a credit card still in the owner’s possession.

DUI. 8:45 p.m. 600 block of Coast Highway. Debra Grant, 49, of Lucerne Valley, on parole for theft, was arrested for violating parole by refusing a breathalyzer test. A citizen reported an intoxicated woman was attempting to drive.

Thursday, Feb. 10

Burglary. 6:33 p.m. 1200 block of Skyline Drive. Unknown suspects broke into a home by shattering a window. Once inside, they stole $4,500 worth of miscellaneous items, which included loose change, foreign currency and a check book.

Friday, Feb. 11

Traffic stop. 1:13 a.m. 10th Avenue. William John Robinson, 51, of Norwalk was arrested for suspicion of DUI and held for $10,000 bail due to a prior conviction. He was stopped for speeding.

Traffic stop. 9:17 a.m. 2500 block of Laguna Canyon Road. A Tustin doctor, 58, was arrested for suspicion of DUI and possession of pills without a prescription. He was held for $2,500 bail.

Fraud. 2:26 p.m. A suspect made an authorized withdrawal of $500 and $200 worth of charges to a woman’s account.

Theft. 3:57 p.m. 600 block of Coast Highway. A British visitor who broke a rented surfboard failed to return to pay the damages.

Traffic stop. 11:31 p.m. 100 block of Coast Highway. A 25-year-old Laguna Beach woman was arrested for suspicion of DUI and held for $2,500 bond.

Saturday, Feb. 12

Curfew violation. 12:21 a.m. 400 block of Coast Highway. A 16-year-old boy from Costa Mesa, who took the family car without permission, was cited for failing to have a driver’s license and violating curfew, as was his passenger, a 14-year-old Laguna Beach girl.

Information in Street Beat is compiled from publicly available logs of the Laguna Beach Police Department and often follow-up interviews.

The paper’s policy is to publish the names of those arrested depending on the seriousness of the allegation, if there are aggravating circumstances, and if the account is reasonably complete. Parents of school-age children who are arrested may request the omission of their name by email: [email protected]. The decision remains at the editor’s discretion.
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