SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego-based U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seized more than a ton of marijuana from a boat near Catalina Island and arrested seven people who all appeared in federal court Thursday.
A marine interdiction team from the agency's Office of Air and Marine spotted a sailboat while patrolling south of Catalina Island, about 80 nautical miles from San Diego, about 3 a.m. Wednesday, Jackie Wasiluk of Customs and Border Protection said.
The sailboat crew signaled with a flashing light. Agents then boarded and found three people, a loaded shotgun, a .40-caliber pistol and night vision equipment, Wasiluk said.
The people aboard the sailboat was suspected of attempting to swap contraband with those on another vessel and a helicopter was brought in to search the area.
"We are beginning to see this as a more common tactic - smugglers attempting to move contraband from open hull panga boats to recreational vehicles, such as this sailboat," said Keley Hill, director of Marine Operations in San Diego.
"The smugglers think that when the recreational vessel moves in to shore, it will blend in with legitimate boating traffic off the Southern California coastline and make it much more difficult for us to detect illegal activity."
About 5:45 a.m. Wednesday, as the Blackhawk helicopter spotted a two-engine panga loaded with marijuana bales about five nautical miles away, the boat's four occupants changed course and began dumping the bales overboard, Wasiluk said.
A second Customs and Border Protection crew stopped the panga after a brief chase and found 130 packages of marijuana weighing about 2,360 pounds with an estimated street value of more than $1 million, Wasiluk said.
Both boats were seized along with the marijuana and the seven suspects were turned over to the Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force which investigates maritime-related crime in the Los Angeles area.
The suspects, who were charged with importation of a controlled substance, initially appeared in federal court Thursday afternoon, Wasiluk said.
Those from the sailboat were Jeremy Alan Brislin, 40, of Huntington Beach; Terrance Joseph Hirchag, 46, of San Clemente; and Andrew Matthew Empson, 49, of Long Beach.
The suspects from the panga were Carlos Santana-Diaz, 36, and Joel Amabisca-Arillano, both of Sonora, Mexico; Ramon Zuniga-Juarez, 20, of Sinaloa, Mexico; and Jesus Beltran-Zuniga, 18, of Tijuana.
If you haven't received your electric bill yet for this month, you might be in for quite a shock. San Diegans are reporting skyrocketing power bills despite their best efforts to reduce their use.
Airbnb has revealed in a new report that 45,000 teachers in the United States are Airbnb hosts. Overall, Airbnb teacher hosts earned $160 million in hosting income in 2017.
It's been more than a month since the West Fire destroyed 56 structures including dozens of homes in Alpine. Like so many California communities right now, people there are starting over.
The Public Utilities Department on Thursday announced that some customers have not received a water bill for recent billing cycles due to an input error involving the city’s new infrastructure asset management program.
Firefighters on Thursday extinguished a small brush fire on a hillside alongside eastbound state Route 52, near Mast Boulevard in Santee.
A portion of Torrey Pines State Beach was blocked off from the public Thursday after a bluff collapse.
A San Diego State University graduate received his diploma on Thursday - 83 years after graduating. 105-year-old Bill Vogt finished college in 1935 but never received a printed diploma.
BIG3's founder Ice Cube and Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman talk about the upcoming BIG3 championship.