14 Arrests in Huntington Beach Panga Boat Discovery

Customs officials have detained 14 people suspected of using fishing boat to enter the U.S.

By Jason Kandel
|  Thursday, Feb 2, 2012  |  Updated 11:40 AM PDT
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Authorities have seen a rise in the number of panga boats being found further up the Southern California coast as smugglers attempt to thwart beefed up security at the U.S.-Mexican border.

Authorities have seen a rise in the number of panga boats being found further up the Southern California coast as smugglers attempt to thwart beefed up security at the U.S.-Mexican border.

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Fourteen people have been arrested, suspected of getting off of a Mexican fishing boat that washed onto the sand in Huntington Beach, federal customs officials said on Thursday.

Officials found the boat, called a panga, on the beach off Pacific Coast Highway near Goldenwest Street.

Fourteen suspected illegal immigrants who got off the boat were arrested and taken to a holding station in San Clemente.

Details were not immediately available.

The news comes as Santa Barbara County Sheriff's officials found on Wednesday a panga - with up to 20 life vests, but no people - near Montecito.

On Saturday, officials reported a panga with up to 1,500 pounds of marijuana washing ashore in an area of Malibu known as “Smuggler’s Cove.”

Three men were arrested in connection with the discovery.

Authorities have seen a jump in recent years in the number of so-called maritime smuggling incidents further north along Southern California's coast as the perpetrators try to evade stepped up enforcement along the U.S.-Mexican border.

So far in fiscal 2012, authorities have recorded at least 10 such incidents in Southern California, including at least two in Ventura County and at least one in Santa Barbara County.

There were 26 incidents for all of fiscal 2011; nine in fiscal 2010; and two in 2009.

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