Latest Panga Pot Bust Occurs Closer to Populated Malibu
• Coast Guard Spotted Boat Offshore of Point Dume State Beach and Alerted Authorities
BY ANNE SOBLE
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and agents arrested three Mexican nationals early Saturday morning following the seizure of a panga and more than a ton of marijuana along Point Dume State Beach near the area known to longtime local residents as Pirates Cove.
Members of the California National Guard, working in conjunction with CBP federal enforcement operations, spotted the vessel offshore and relayed the information to law enforcement officers in the area, who included State Parks Rangers and Department of Fish and Game personnel checking on the Marine Protection Area.
The interagency personnel, as well as Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies, responded to the area shortly after 12 a.m., where they discovered the panga—a small open fishing boat powered by an outboard motor that is used in many coastal countries—and bales of marijuana totaling 2575 pounds that have an estimated street value of $1,287,500, according to the LASD.
Agents arrested three men in the area who had allegedly illegally entered the U.S. on board the craft. The men were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations for processing.
As CBP and other agencies have increased coastal border security closer to the Mexican border, criminal organizations have moved to smuggling drop-off sites further north along the Malibu westernmost coast. Increased marine patrols and land-based surveillance are now monitoring the local coast.
This smuggling attempt to come ashore is the closest to populated areas that smugglers have gone so far. Although the Point Dume Headlands overlook the area, and there is some security lighting, Pirates Cove itself, a regular stop for rumrunners during the Prohibition era and a clothing optional beach several decades ago, requires careful footwork on rocky terrain.
Previous landing efforts have been concentrated in the Deer Creek area of the 90265 segment of Ventura County. There have been close to a dozen interdicted attempts to bring contraband ashore, but federal agents have told the Malibu Surfside News that they would not discount the probability of successful forays before the increased law enforcement presence in the area.
Malibuites seeing any unusual activity along the coast are urged to telephone 911 or Lost Hills Sheriff Station directly at 310-456-6652.
One can remain anonymous and contact Crime Stoppers by dialing 800-222-TIPS (8477), texting the letters TIPLA plus the tip to CRIMES (274637), or accessing the website: http://lacrimestoppers.org