Eighteen people were arrested early Friday morning after they were caught allegedly smuggling more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana from a panga boat at Arroyo Quemada Beach. According to a statement released by Santa Barbara Sheriff’s spokesperson Kelly Hoover, the California National Guard first spotted the group unloading bales of narcotics from the boat.
The suspects ran in different directions and hid in nearby bushes once a slew of officials responded to the scene, including those from the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and California Highway Patrol.
Fourteen of the scattered suspects were arrested on the spot. HSI agents later stopped a truck in Camarillo believed to be associated with the incident. The vehicle’s occupants fled the truck on foot and escaped. Marijuana bales and other evidence was found in the truck that linked it to the smugglers. Later that morning, four additional suspects hiding near Arroyo Quemada beach were also arrested.
Few further details have been released as the investigation is still ongoing. Although the identities of the suspects have not yet been released, many were from the Los Angeles area and face federal prosecution.
In the past year, there have been ten panga events in Santa Barbara County — two of which involved human smuggling — totaling 15 apprehensions and 9,735 pounds of seized marijuana, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security.