Drug Smugglers Seized in Crystal Cove

A panga style boat abandoned at Crystal Cove in 2010 in a suspected human smuggling incident.
Suspected pot smugglers landed on Monday at Crystal Cove in a panga style boat, similar to this one used by human smugglers in 2010.

Border patrol agents arrested nine people and seized 1,200 pounds of marijuana when a panga-style boat came ashore north of Laguna Beach shortly after midnight on Monday, Feb. 4, law enforcement authorities said.

Agents observed the boat slip through the shore break at Crystal Cove State Park and seven people unloading 26 bundles of marijuana, said agent Jerome D. Conlin, a border patrol spokesman in San Diego. Agents also detained two others who were in a vehicle in the area that attempted to flee when agents arrived, Conlin said.

Of those arrested for suspicion of smuggling, six are U.S. citizens, two others are Mexican citizens and one other is a native of Guatemala, Conlin said.

Several empty fuel canisters were also found in the vessel, said Conlin, who could provide no further details about the boat’s origin or itinerary as an investigation is underway.

The open-bow, outboard-powered boats usually used as fishing vessels typically are loaded with people or drugs south of the U.S.-Mexico border. Their risky, open-ocean journeys typically end at clandestine landings and a rendezvous with waiting vans.

With greater anti-smuggling efforts in the San Diego area, smugglers are taking to the seas to deliver their cargo.

“We’ve seen a huge jump in drugs,” said Conlin. “We’ve seen they’ve gone farther out to sea and up the coast.”

In the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, authorities seized 118,000 pounds of marijuana, compared to 25,000 in 2011 along the entire California coast, according to ICE data. The number of maritime smuggling incidents, from jet skis to swimmers to pangas, climbed to 779 in the same time period, compared to 631 in the previous year, Conlin said.

Officers from Newport Beach and Laguna Beach temporarily closed Coast Highway to traffic to assist agents searching the area for the boat’s passengers, Laguna’s Sgt. Louise Callus said.

The boat landed at El Moro Beach, across the highway from the state campground, said Newport police spokeswoman Kathy Lowe.

More than one group of suspected illegal immigrants on similar stealth human-smuggling voyages have stepped out on the sandy beaches of Crystal Cove and Emerald Bay in recent years.

The tradition is well established in the area. During the 1920s prohibition era, rum runners supposedly smuggled 486 cases ashore at Crystal Cove, according to a history compiled by the Crystal Cove Alliance, a park support organization.

The Crystal Cove incident comes two months after a U.S. Coast Guardsman died and a second was wounded when their boat was rammed by a panga fishing boat under investigation for smuggling near San Nicholas Island.

On Dec. 12, Santa Barbara County authorities arrested 11 people and seized 3,000 pounds of marijuana after a panga boat was tracked to the Gaviota coast.

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  1. I’d think legalization would put a bigger, faster and American Economy friendly stop to it, myself. Just look what happened during Prohibition. Compare it to the last 70 years of increased enforcement over time: Drug turf wars, drive by shootings, gang rivalry for their corner of the Black Market, more guns carried by more likely to shoot people, because the law is against them, even though the people want it.

    Yup, that sounds exactly like the Roaring ’20s and the Dry ’30s. Except now it’s gone on SIX times longer than Prohibition for pot. The majority favors legalization or decriminalization, scientifically and medically from a pharmacological study it does not fit in any way the classification of a Schedule One Controlled Substance. To be a Schedule One a drug has to at least have three major proveable characteristics:
    Be Habit Forming (Physically Addictive)
    Have Known Acute Toxicity (poison effect in short time frame/dosage — the ability to overdose)
    Have Known Chronic Toxicity (where you have health problems directly and demonstrably linked to the use of the drug — like getting cancer, diabetes, emphysyma, etc.)

    Marijuana doesn’t fit any of these criterion. But I can name you two legal substances that DO fit all these classifications and they’re legal and not on the list.

    Both have known addictive chemical potency (brain chemistry altering habit forming drugs)
    Both have easily proven and well known Acute Toxic effects.
    Both have well documented scientifically proven medical long term chronic effects.

    But people still have them and they’re legal. And when they stopped Prohibition, crime went down, less people had to carry guns to fight over turf. Instead of guns, these folks now use their money to buy influence. It’s a tradeoff, but one that, on the whole, is an overall benefit to society, peace and safety.

    I take the time to explain this in order to show the hypocrisy of the enforcement. If it wasn’t illegal, the stigma would die off, the gangsters would have to go legit or quit. This pumps more money into the economy legally and garners greater revenue for the governmnt coffers (taxation) and provides better quality product that you don’t have to wonder is sprayed or laced with paraquat or some other pesticide the DEA and other PDs spray all over the place. (Reduced cost of enforcement and resources conserved, put to better uses.)

    Reduced desire on the part of Mexican smugglers to sneak past border patrols and just declare their cargo, pay their roaduse taxes and the purchaser buys it, declares his inventory and the profits from sales and then pays taxes. Nobody shoots, nobody gets hurt, new markets open for recreational, medicinal, psychological, pharmacological and materials use (hemp) and more money is spent here on product made in the USA. Farmers relying on corn sales in this time could revert a few fields for Industrial Hemp. We could make paper, ropes, fiber materials and it grows — like a weed. Someone is even figuring out how to refine the refuse of hemp and recreational marijuana to make Jet Fuel.

    All I can see is the hypocrisy of the situation and the ignorance that still prevails out there about how to solve several pressing social, legal and economic issues in a fell swoop for the benefit of the Nation. I look at history and what I see is ignorant people enforcing a damaging law that the majority really doesn’t agree with, but aren’t vocal because they (rightfully) fear persecution for making sense.

    This is changing. Why don’t we optimize instead of penalize? Bill Clinton puffed but didn’t inhale, George Bush had to clean up his Coke, drinking and Pot days, Barack Obama openly in his biography admitted he was a stoner. Three Presidents today we know at least tried it. Three Presidents that helped found this nation smoked and grew it — at least. Washington, Jefferson and Adams at least.

    So it obviously doesn’t ruin one’s ability to bullshit their way into the Office of the President. One more hypocrisy to end, I say.


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