Maritime Human Smuggling Bust near California Yields 15 Arrests

An exhaustive search and investigation led to the arrest of 15 people after this boat beached near San Diego. (Photo: U.S. Border Patrol/San Diego Sector)
Photo: U.S. Border Patrol/San Diego Sector

San Diego Sector Border Patrol agents disrupted a maritime human smuggling event over the past weekend leading to the arrest of 15 people. An extensive investigation led to the arrest of the migrants and their smugglers who initially managed to avoid apprehension after beaching a boat on the coast north of San Diego, California.

A manhunt began on Friday afternoon after witnesses reported a 20 to 25-foot pleasure craft coming ashore near Beacon’s State Beach in Encinitas, California. Witnesses told responding Border Patrol agents that about 11 people jumped out of the boat and ran along the beach. Two more climbed the nearby cliffs, according to information obtained by San Diego Sector Border Patrol officials.

An immediate search of the area ended with no positive results. However, the agents did find 13 lifejackets and multiple fuel containers inside the boat.

A team of Border Patrol agents trained to investigate maritime smuggling incidents took over the search and began following leads. A combination of witnesses and intelligence sources led the agents to make arrests later that evening, officials reported. By the end of the night, agents arrested seven smugglers and eight illegal immigrants. The agents identified the migrants as a 27-year-old female and seven men between the agents of 22 and 39. Agents reported all eight as Mexican nationals.

Officials identified the alleged human smugglers as four U.S. citizens and three Mexican nationals. All seven face federal felony charges related to alien smuggling (8 USC 1324).

All eight of the migrants being smuggled were medically screened and received a biometric background investigation. Once cleared, the agents expelled the eight illegal aliens under Title 42 Coronavirus protection protocols put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Border Patrol officials seized four “getaway” vehicles used in the failed human smuggling attempt. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations agents seized the boat.

“I am proud of the hard work and diligence the agents displayed in this case,” San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke said in a written statement. “Our agents dismantled an entire smuggling ring through the use of targeted intelligence. The message is clear, those who engage in alien smuggling will be discovered, arrested, and prosecuted.”

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior news contributor for the Breitbart Texas-Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Price is a regular panelist on Fox 26 Houston’s What’s Your Point? Sunday-morning talk show. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.

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