Another Panga Tries to Unload Pot Bonanza on Malibu Coast
• Three Suspects with 80 Bales Taken into Custody
BY ANNE SOBLE
Three alleged maritime marijuana traffickers from Mexico were taken into custody last week following an ocean chase off the Malibu coast, according to local and federal authorities involved in the craft's apprehension.
This time it was Los Angeles County lifeguards who were the first to question unusual marine activity. They notified the Lost Hills Sheriff's Station late Tuesday evening that a suspicious boat was spotted off Latigo Beach.
LASD deputies determined that the vessel was a panga—small motorized fishing craft favored by smugglers—and contacted the Department of Homeland Security, which deployed air and sea resources and apprehended the three people on board after a high-speed ocean pursuit that concluded southwest of Point Dume.
Suspected couriers of controlled substances are subject to prosecution on federal drug smuggling charges. During the chase, the alleged drug runners reportedly tossed bales of marijuana overboard. The U.S. Coast Guard recovered over 80 bales of marijuana with an estimated street value of more than $1 million.
Local scuttlebutt that hordes of divers were in the area looking for the well-wrapped bales that had not yet sunk to the bottom could not be confirmed.
Close to a dozen alleged smuggling operations in the vicinity have been interdicted in some form in recent months, which has resulted in increased inter-agency law enforcement monitoring of the Malibu coastline.
Anyone spotting suspicious activity involving watercraft or possible smuggling support crews on land is asked to contact 911 and be forewarned that because the illegal cargo can be worth millions of dollars, participants in a smuggling operation may be armed.