Authorities seized a drug shipment worth nearly $9 million that was being smuggled from a boat into Santa Barbara, officials said Friday.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said in a news release that the narcotics included more than 42 gallons of crude cannabis oil, estimated to have a street value of over $6.8 million. It also contained over 5,300 pounds of marijuana, worth $2.12 million.
Officials found the drugs Wednesday after a law enforcement aircraft spotted a 50-foot skiff off the coast near Santa Barbara moving toward the shore.
As agents from local, state and federal departments approached the area, they also saw a van dropping off 17 people who then moved the drugs from the boat toward a nearby road.
The "offload crew," as well as the four men on the boat, attempted to run away but were arrested by officials and placed in federal custody, where they await drug smuggling charges, according to the news release.
Agents spent hours collecting the 204 bundles of smuggled marijuana, some of which were littered over the bluffs on the coast, according to the news release. The narcotics and the boat, a super panga with three high-powered outboard motors, were seized by the Border Patrol.
There were three juveniles in the offload crew – all 17 people were U.S. citizens. Those in the boat were Mexican citizens illegally present in the United States, CBP officials said.
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Agencies involved in the operation included Santa Barbara Sheriff’s deputies, Ventura County Sheriff deputies, and agents from Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach.