Drug Smuggling

4 Arrested on Drug Charges After Salton Sea Dune Buggy Chase

An ultralight aircraft briefly landed near the Salton Sea before returning to Mexico, reportedly leaving 200 pounds of meth in the desert.

U.S. Department of Justice

Authorities arrested four men suspected in an operation to use an ultralight to fly nearly 200 pounds (90 kilograms) of methamphetamine into Southern California from Mexico, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Monday.

The arrests before dawn Friday came after U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents detected the glider-like aircraft crossing into the U.S. from Calexico, Mexico, according to a statement.

Border Patrol agents chased two off-road vehicles spotted in the area where the ultralight briefly landed near the Salton Sea in Riverside County before returning to Mexico.

One dune buggy crashed into a canal during the pursuit, authorities said.

Victor Bugarin Perez, 28, Juan Favela Paredez, 25, Juan Carlos Iturriaga Centeno, 33; and Centano’s brother, Leonardo Iturriaga Centeno, 28, could face charges including possession and intent to distribute meth, prosecutors said. All are being held without bail and it wasn't immediately known if they have attorneys. They're expected to make court appearances this week.

Agents recovered 26 small containers stuffed with meth, prosecutors said. GPS devices were also seized and were likely used to establish the ultralight’s drop zone.

If convicted, each defendant could face life in prison with the possibility of parole.

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