Panga Boat | Credit: Courtesy

Santa Barbara authorities on Wednesday, August 19, made the single biggest drug bust in county history, intercepting a panga boat at Arroyo Quemada Beach along the Refugio coast and seizing 3,164 pounds of methamphetamine. Thirty-three people were arrested. The operation was also one of the largest methamphetamine seizures in the nation’s history. Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office detectives led the charge, assisted by the Coast Guard, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security, among other state and federal agencies.

Credit: Courtesy

“Today’s seizure of a panga boat illicitly smuggling more than a ton and a half of methamphetamine into our county and the arrest of the 33 suspects responsible for transporting and unloading its ruinous cargo was a major milestone in counter-drug operations in Santa Barbara County,” said Sheriff Bill Brown in a prepared statement. “Drug cartels, smugglers, and illicit narcotic dealers know no international, state, or local boundaries. This successful operation was made possible only through the collaborative investigative and operational efforts of local, state, and federal authorities. We will never know how many lives were saved from overdose or addictive misery as a result of this exceptional law enforcement action.”

The panga boat, a 40-foot homemade craft equipped with three 300-horsepower Yamaha engines, had originated in Mexico. Among the arrestees were 29 adult males, one adult female, and three juveniles. Fifteen of them live in the Santa Barbara area. Two suspects attempted to flee and were both bitten by sheriff’s dogs as they were being apprehended, officials said. This case will be prosecuted by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office pending review by the United States Attorney.

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