<b>BEACH TREASURE:</b>  This “super panga” ​— ​like the one successfully salvaged by a Santa Barbara fisherman in April 2012 ​— ​was the centerpiece of a July 2012 press conference to highlight increased enforcement action against Mexican smugglers.

Paul Wellman

BEACH TREASURE: This “super panga” ​— ​like the one successfully salvaged by a Santa Barbara fisherman in April 2012 ​— ​was the centerpiece of a July 2012 press conference to highlight increased enforcement action against Mexican smugglers.

Crabber Pockets a Panga

After Legal Battle, Fisherman Retains Ownership of Abandoned Vessel

Wednesday, July 10, 2013
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Travis Lobo was in the right place in the right time, and he’s now the proud new owner of a 50-foot panga boat that was ditched April 20, 2012, on Tajiguas Beach. The Santa Barbara lobster and crab fisherman was servicing crab pots off the coast when he spotted the vessel ​— ​the type typically used by Mexican smugglers to ferry marijuana and migrants into California ​— ​stranded on the beach. It was in relatively good shape, with a value of between $20,000 and $30,000, and fitted with four Yamaha outboard motors, worth around $25,000 apiece. Because of its size and ability to reach high speeds on the open sea, authorities would later call it a “super panga.”

Lobo swam ashore and checked the area for anyone in distress and hunted up and down the shoreline for a possible owner. Finding no one, Lobo laid claim to the vessel under maritime salvage laws, wrote his name and phone number along the hull, and contacted his attorney, Robert Bartosh, who in turn called the Coast Guard and Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office to notify them his client was taking legal ownership of the boat. Bartosh said his client had the right and means to take the panga there and then, but recognizing it may have been used for criminal purposes and therefore potential evidence in a smuggling case, he decided to let the authorities tow it away.

Since then, the county Sheriff and District Attorney’s offices have kept it under lock and key, telling Lobo and Bartosh it had been seized as evidence. The DA began forfeiture proceedings to have the panga officially transferred to the state and was close to bringing the case to trial, but Bartosh received notice last week that the forfeiture effort was being abandoned and that Lobo could come pick up his boat. The lead prosecutor was out of town this week and unavailable for comment, and Sheriff’s Department officials declined to be interviewed. With more and more pangas finding their way onto Santa Barbara’s shores ​— ​there were 18 last year and seven so far this year ​— ​fishermen laying claim to the abandoned boats has become a regular occurrence. This was the first instance, though, where the authorities let the finder be the keeper.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

If the attorney you are referring to is the one in Ventura who also owns interests in fishing vessels, his name is Bob Bartosh. Could be a different guy. I was wondering when someone was going to successfully invoke the maritime salvage laws and snag one of the pangas. Good for Lobo.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2013 at 8:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There are a number of problems with this story:

1) How is it possible that a so called "super panga" supposedly worth $130,000 was discovered on a SB county beach, and not a single article was written about it until now? (I googled 'panga discovered tajiguas april 2012' and got nothing except for this article.)

2) I don't know how this boat actually got to tajiguas, but if it sailed up here from Mexico, the US Coast Guard has some explaining to do - as of April 2012, the Coast Guard claims to have intercepted 30 "narco submarines". Although these are in actuality only semi submersible boats, they present a much smaller radar cross section than even the smallest panga - proof that the claim of pangas being "invisible to radar" is just another preposterous lie!

3) The government routinely seizes property and forces the legal owner to forfeit without any real evidence it was used in a crime, but we're supposed to believe that at the last minute, the SB counrty DA decided to just be generous and say "finders keepers". Riiiiiight!

4) In every other case of a "found" panga, the SBSO immediately turns the boat over to Homeland Security and it's supposedly sent to some sort of a "federal evidence compound" - but this time, we're supposed to believe the Sheriff kept the boat "under lock and key". Why the change in SOP? Surely it wasn't some new found respect for maritime law and salvage rights, because California law wasn't even followed in this case.

5) Under California law, merely finding a vessel "abandoned" on a public beach does not give ANYONE "the right and means to take posession" just because the owner isn't physically present. If this were the case, I could go up to lake San Antonio and "salvage" boats every day of the week. Furthermore, after a notice is attached to the hull, there's a 72 hour waiting period before the vessel can even be moved. After that, there's 90 day waiting period during which the legal owner has a right to reclaim his property - you can't just walk up to a beached boat and "take posession", that's called 'theft'.

This story, like all the other panga stories, is pure BS!`

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 3:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And still the fact remains (which is the lead fact of the story) that Mr. Lobo is now the proud owner of a panga that he found and salvaged.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 8:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Um, I don't know that a "Mr. Lobo" even exists - I mean seriously, Mr Crabber was just going about his business and happened to notice a panga on the beach. Yeah right!

If there is an actual Mr. Lobo, and he was granted legal ownership of the vessel in question, the fact that well established procedure was NOT followed makes this a clear case of fraud.

And nice job of sidestepping the fact that the Coast Guard could easily detect ANY panga with radar and intercept it long before it reached Tajiguas. This whole story is just ridiculous!

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 10:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yeah, you'd think with those giant outboards that at least a patrol boat or plane would be able to pick up a heat signature with FLIR or some similar heat detection method.

I'm not sure if I'm ready to agree with the whole conspiracy theory on these but, at the very least, I think the SBSO, Coast Gaurd, Homeland Security, etc should be doing a LOT more to nab these pangas!

sacjon (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 10:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Thanks for kinda sorta agreeing with me, but the Coast Guard claims to have used some type of radar to detect semi submersible boats. Whatever the excuse, given the arsenal of high tech gadgetry available to the Coast Guard and other components of Homeland Security, there's just no excuse for pangas somehow traveling 250 miles without being detected - it's clearly being allowed to happen to justify some sort of agenda.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree. I think the fact that these pangas are landing here regularly is extremely fishy (pardon the pun). With our technology, there is no excuse for this. I mean, it would be one thing if only a couple had slipped past us but these seem to be a monthly occurrence.

Honestly, just out of curiousity, what is a semi-submersible boat? Is that the same as a submarine? Contrary to some of your previous assertions, I am, in fact, not an LEO. So, I have to admit ignorance about this.

sacjon (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 10:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Just google 'narco submarine' - there are plenty of articles about them. (Even though I have serious doubts that submarines bringing cocain to the US are really any more of a problem than pangas bringing weed - I have no personal knowledge of the current illegal drug "scene", but my sense is that the demand for cocaine just doesn't account for what amounts to a smuggling "arms race" - much more likely that this whole sea borne smuggling meme is a charade to justify an ever increasing Homeland Security budget or militarization of the coast, or both.)

And if you're not an LEO, my bad - but some of your previous posts certainly suggested that sort of mind set.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 10:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I hang out with a lot of fisherman/divers. I am going to find out if anyone knows Travis and hear the scoop... I will report back tomorrow.

MesaD805 (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 11:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

For some reason the Indy web master blocked my last post - but the point is that even if there really is a crabber named Lobo, the rest of the story is not supported by fact.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 12:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I hope the coast guard doesn't mistake him for a Pangerrorist.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 5:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Make all the jokes you want, but I'm convinced that this whole thing is to support some sort of hidden agenda.

If the panga "smuggling'' were confined to short high speed runs around the seaward end of the border fence down in San Diego, it would be believable, but the idea that our Mexican friends are taking 2 or 300 mile "voyages" in a motorized skiff filled with pollos and/or worthless Mexican brick weed, is absolutely preposterous.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 5:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't see the point in it myself, could be something far more nefarious with stranger cargo than "pollos" or drugs. Not necessarily the Sheriff's doing either.. seems nobody knows much if we want to be honest, just conjecture on all sides.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 5:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

C'mon, KV - just look at the way this article was written - the SBSO refused to comment and "the lead prosecutor was out of town"? If I didn't learn anything else from 4 years in the Army, I sure as heck know BS when I see it.

As for somthing more nefarious than what we're being told, it just doesn't make ANY sense for an actual smuggling operation to leave all sorts of illegal drugs and boats lying around as some sort of "decoy" - there were NO pangas up here before 2011, so why would anyone feel a need to divert arttention away from something that wasn't even on anyone's "radar"?

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 6:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Here's a story about drug smugglers being set free due to lack of money to prosecute:

Maybe they didn't want to pay for boat storage.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 6:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

With all due respect Spiritwalker, I have answered all your arguments before and asked some questions (which you never answered). But here goes again. Weed is expensive to buy and cheap to grow. Mexicans can make high quality clone weed just as well as U.S growers can. In fact, the word "sinsemilla" is a Spanish word (it was done there first). There is money in smuggling pot. Secondly, it is expensive to get your person smuggled across the border and you can either take the risks of the desert hike or the boat trip (both risky). There is money in smuggling people. Most meth comes from Mexico. A very small package can bring a very large return. There is big money in smuggling meth. Perhaps the abandonment of the weed simply means that it was gravy and the main product delivery was meth (or people) and when they landed on some beach where lugging the weed up the bluff face was not worth the effort, they simply grabbed the meth and jammed. Crabbing is an activity that occurs close to shore, so it totally makes sense that a crabber would discover an abandoned panga. Furthermore, it appears as if Mr. Lobo followed all the rules to claim his salvage, which is why the Sheriff relented. Finally (at last), if the Sheriff is purchasing panga boats and littering our shores with them, from where is he deriving the $30,000 per boat, and from where is he purchasing said boats, and how does he get them here, and then how does he get them on the beach?

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 7:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Do I really need to explain the difference between medical MJ and Mexican brick weed? Okay, besides the huge difference in price, there's the fact that Medical buds are individually hand manicured - Mexican brick is stuffed into an industrial strength garbage compacter and crushed to the point where individual buds aren't even distinguishable. Mexican brick may be high grade, but it's homogenous - Medical comes in a huge number of varieties with (supposedly) different types of effects/highs. (And you can get all this info the same way I did - TV and the web.)

As for there being money to be made in human trafficing, this brings us right back to the fact that the southern border is STILL pretty much wide open - the idea that Mexican nationals are getting in motorized skiffs when they could simply walk or ride across the land border, is just plain stupid. End of story.

And if you STILL don't get it, the US Coast Guard claims that cocaine is transported by submarine from south America to Mexico - from there it is supposedly transported across the US/Mexican land border. Get it? The US Coast Guard is down in south America chasing and supposedly detecting and even intercepting "narco subs" with radar, but up here in poor little backwards California, the very same Coast Guard doesn't seem able to spot a single panga - every one of them that makes it to SB county is just a complete surprise!

Now, if you still can't see that this panga thing is just a travesty, there's nothing more I can do to help you.

As for this absurd salvage claim, merely writing your name on the hull of a "found" vessel does NOT give you the right to take posession - anymore than writing your name on the fender of a car you "found" on the side of the road gives you the right to drive off in it - it's theft. End of story.

The rest of your argument really doesn't even deserve a response - they never reported "finding" a panga on Tajiguas beach in April 2012, because it never happened - the story is a complete fabrication. End of story.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 8:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ok Spiritwalker, I am going to go out on limb and admit that I know people in the weed business and I can tell that you know nothing about the weed business. Maybe you spend too much time watching TV and surfing the web to actually find out real facts. I will not get into any more detail for obvious reasons. Secondly, I also happen to know through other personal associations what it costs to get smuggled into this Country. It is not a cake walk and costs a lot of money. Your belief that all someone has to do is saunter across the border is mistaken. With regard to the Coast Guard's ability to detect every small vessel that crosses into U.S. borders, your conception is fantastical. The Pacific Ocean is a very big place and impossible to monitor comprehensively over the entire length of California. I don't know if you have been out there in the blue water, but I have, and let me tell you, it is very lonely. With regard to the marine salvage laws, I recommend that you contact an attorney that is versed in such laws (although a smart fisherman or even a well informed surfer would do) to get an education before you set yourself up as an expert. Finally, I find it interesting that you ignore the toughest questions, which are aimed at having you explain how your conspiracy theory would actually work in the real world. Good night.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 10:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You wanna know what gets on my nerves? It's not the name calling some posters engage in, it's people like you - the ones who pretend to have some deep inside knowledge of the "real" workings of organisations like the Coast Guard or the SBSO.

Of course you can't even begin to explain how the Coast Guard can supposedly spot a boat that's almost completely submerged, but is unable detect a 50 foot panga with 4 huge outboard motors and as much as 3 feet of freeboard above the surface of the water.

No, you can't do anything but give me a bunch of crap about contacting a maritime lawyer - California law on "abandoned" vessels is available online smart guy, and neither Lobo nor the SBSO even came close to following it. In fact they didn't even follow common law for claiming found property in general. But I'll make a deal with you: if you ever find a boat "abandoned" on the beach, write your name and phone number on the hull and "take posession" of it - after you're arrested for grand theft, I promise I'll come visit you in jail, okay?

Another thing you can't explain is why the SBSO didn't make a big deal about "discovering" this panga - they make a big deal out of every other panga, but for some reason they decided to keep this one a big secret. And you can't even begin to explain why the SBSO didn't turn this boat over to Homeland Security. (Don't you dare give me any mealy mouthed crap about that stupid salvage claim either - that wouldn't even slow the feds down let alone stop them from doing as they pleased!)

Nor can you explain why the only source quoted for this story is some shyster down in Ventura. And you certainly can't explain why the Indy decided to post this article without comment from either the Sheriff or the DA - the boat was found more than a year ago, surely they could've waited till the "lead prosecutor" returned from his little trip.

But I can - the Sheriff and the DA didn't want to get trapped in a lie that a child could see through. And for the umpteenth time, I'm not pretending to be an "expert" - I'm using information freely available on the web to point out an obvious fraud - if the info is wrong, take it up with the Coast Guard! (Personally, I think the claim that 30 narco subs have been detected and inetrcepted with radar is just another big lie - but that is the claim.)

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2013 at 11:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

One person can't get on another person's nerves, technically speaking. One has to upset themselves. Buddhist law dealing with the mind/brain. So grow up and control your own emotions.

khiggler (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2013 at 1:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Oy yes, my emotions are just TOTALLY out of control - stop me before I make another "genius" look like a fool. (Not exactly a hard thing to do!)

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2013 at 2:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Oh yeah, I keep forgetting to point out that this article was OBVIOUSLY written toungue in cheeck - just look at the date the boat was supposedly "found" on: 4/20! I suppose it would've been too obvious to claim a big pile of weed was also found on 4/20.

Get it? 4:20, the pot head's favorite time of day?

Maybe it's just a coincidence. Or maybe it's someone just having a bit of fun. Or maybe, some whistle blower just wanted to give us a hint that this panga story is really one big fat joke!

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 13, 2013 at 3:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Gee, but this is a slam dunk issue. Maritime salvage laws provide for claim of abandoned vessels. Authorities can search for evidence, document and photograph, and once concluded, claimant should be awarded his salvage.

Don't like it, local authorities?
Change maritime law, or step aside.

Glad the crabber nabbed his prize.

Draxor (anonymous profile)
July 14, 2013 at 8:47 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Slam dunk? Are you mentally retarded? There is NO special allowance in salvage law for so called "pangas" - it's a skiff with outboard motors - absent any REAL evidence that these boats came from Mexico, they're just boats.

And there is no "short cut" in found-property law that allows siezure of a boat just because it "looks like a panga".

You LEO ninnies are trying to feed us a big steaming pile, and we're just not going to swallow your BS, okay?

(And the only reason I post a new comment to this thread is that a new "panga" story has just emerged (7/14) out of SLO county - of course there's no REAL evidence that this boat transported drugs or even that it came from Mexico - just another pathetic piece of drug war propaganda.)


spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 14, 2013 at 6:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

spiritwalker: 4/20 sure is an interesting date to find a panga boat. Tajiguas also seems like an odd place for a crabber/lobster fisherman to work. Falcons have reduced the former high bacteria levels that resulted from seagull poop, but I'd expect other pollutants that you wouldn't want as seasoning in crabs and lobsters that live below the landfill.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
July 17, 2013 at 4:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

People who've never been on the inside of "cop culture" usually have a hard time grasping just how demented LEOs can be - I mean think about this silly article - more than a year after the boat is supposedly "found", they come out with this ridiculous story asserting that all you need to do to "take possession" of a "found" boat is write your name and phone number on the hull. (I can assure you that simply picking up a wad of money off the ground is considered theft under state law, never mind a boat supposedly worth $120,000 - you CANNOT take some boat off the beach simply because it LOOKS like came from Mexico - this story is just plain stupid!)

There's so much more to maritime salvage law, that such an inane story as this really doesn't even merit a response - but that is the level of regard most LEO hold "civilians" in - they actually believe we can't figure out their stupid "inside" jokes like '4:20'.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 17, 2013 at 4:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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