On Thanksgiving day, San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputies tracked and seized thousands of pounds of marijuana leading to the discovery of the suspects’ alleged panga boat along the northern California coast and the subsequent seizure of a second van full of marijuana. Eight men have been taken into custody in relation to Thursday’s investigation.
The morning’s events began when sheriff’s deputies began tracking a Dodge panel van traveling at approximately 3:30 a.m. near San Simeon–a known maritime smuggling area, according to the sheriff’s department. Deputies stopped the van for a traffic violation and discovered an estimate 2-3,000 pounds of marijuana. Van driver Rafael Rebolledo, 41, was arrested for conspiracy and transportation of marijuana at the scene.
Narcotics detectives then searched for the boat used to transport the narcotics. The searched spanned a swath of northern California coastline. In a successful search, the panga boat was found with 300 gallons of gasoline, but no people inside.
The discovery spurred sheriff’s deputies to search the area for additional suspects and again were successful, finding and arresting five male subjects connected with the illegal activity.
The panga’s discovery also spurred San Luis Obispo sheriff’s deputies to alert Monterey and Santa Barbara County sheriff’s offices to be on the lookout. Monterey deputies subsequently tracked down another van containing between 60 and 90 bales of marijuana.
Currently eight suspects are in custody in relation to the morning’s events: Sergio Cortes, Lucio Laureano-Atanocio, Ricardo J. Melgar, Filberto O. Vasquez, Antonio Palomares and two unnamed male juveniles range in age from 17 to 26. Six are listed as California residents, and two as city of residence unknown.
The boat has been transported to Morro Bay and the first van to San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s headquarters to be processed for evidence. The sheriff’s department is continuing to investigate the maritime smuggling operation.
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