Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Monday, June 4, 2012

California Faces Threat at Sea From Chapo’s Latest Drug Smuggling Technique

Chivis Martinez for BORDERLAND BEAT

On May 21, 2012 I posted an article reporting on 4 tons of mota floating in the waters off Dana Point, a city in SoCal near Huntington Beach.  Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Dana Point, Malibu are among the wealthiest cities in the US and are popular spots used by water sports enthusiasts, such as boating and surfing, but also hot spots for vacationers to visit. 

The beaches draw a crowd year round and filled during the summer months.  These are not  desolate areas. The beach cities also have "Oil Islands" unused since off shore drilling halted.  They hug the coastline and would be a convenient stagging area for a short duration.  Paz, Chivis


Used to smuggle drugs from Mexico, this panga boat was captured near
Huntington Beach, in Southern California
On a starry night in the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean north of Los Angeles, a two-man California National Guard special forces surveillance team sets up a sophisticated night scope. Their mission is to search the horizon and the waters below for an increasing number of Mexican drug traffickers offloading multi-ton loads of marijuana--and sometimes illegal immigrants--on remote U.S. beaches.
"These service members are the eyes and ears of federal law enforcement here," said Lt. Kara Siepmann, of the Guard's National Drug program. When asked about what specifically they are looking for, one of the surveillance team members said, "We're looking for blacked out vessels and any suspicious activity we can find, any unusual boats coming through the area."

The soldiers work quietly and in the dark, aware that the Mexican traffickers have their own spotters here watching out for U.S. law enforcement personnel. "They don't want to land where the National Guard or the Border Patrol are looking for them," said Siepmann.


In the last few years, law enforcement officials said they have seen a considerable spike in smugglers loading drugs or immigrants onto boats in Mexico's northern Baja
Federal agents said this is the latest smuggling technique employed by Mexico's notorious Sinaloa drug cartel, headed by that country's most-wanted criminal, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. The boats are small, open-hulled commercial fishing boats called pangas, which are commonly found in the inshore waters of Mexico and Central America.
With their low profiles, the pangas are hard to spot in open water, but they can carry a large payload. Sometimes these 30- to 40-foot boats will have as many as four outboard engines, allowing them to outrun most vessels used by the authorities.
"The trend is pretty much going straight up," said Lt. Stewart Sibert, the captain of the US Coast Guard Cutter Halibut, which patrols in search of Mexican smugglers near the California coast.
"The past few months have been very busy for us," he said. "We caught more drugs in these past two months than in the past two years."
Used to smuggle drugs from Mexico, this panga boat was found in California's Ventura County in January 2012.

According to arrest statistics reported by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or ICE, there were 183 known "events" in fiscal year 2011 along the California coast involving the maritime smuggling of drugs or immigrants, up considerably from the previous three years. During the first seven months of this fiscal year, there have already been 113 such events as the numbers climb even faster than last year.

"We're seeing four and five tons of drugs come in per run and we're seeing dozens of runs. It's almost one or two per week at this point," said Sibert.
Law enforcement officials have argued the rise in maritime smuggling is a direct result of their crackdown on smuggling operations along the U.S. land border with Mexico. As they first interdicted smuggling boats headed for beaches in southernmost California, near San Diego, they began to see the traffickers moving farther north to drop off their loads, which are then distributed across the country.
"As we stop them in one area, they’re trying to go around us. We're sort of leapfrogging up the coastline," said Sibert. Recently, an abandoned panga and a hidden marijuana stash were found near San Simeon, Calif., more than 300 miles from the Mexican border.
"They go far out to sea to try to evade interdiction efforts along the border," said Claude Adams, the special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations. "They typically go 100 miles out or farther due west, and then they come north," to reach the U.S. coastline.
While the panga boats are considered relatively stable when used for fishing in calm inshore waters, officials said, they can be quite dangerous in rougher waters offshore, especially if they are overloaded with drugs or illegal immigrants. The boats rarely have adequate safety equipment and authorities speculate that many may have been lost at sea, along with their passengers.
"It's a direct indication of these criminal smuggling organizations' complete disregard for human life. They are driven by profit and nothing else," said Troy Matthews, of the U.S. Border Patrol in San Diego. "You'll have somebody driving the ship who is not necessarily highly-trained. You'll have poorly maintained vehicles that will break down and subsequently they are loitering out at sea for days."
Used to smuggle drugs from Mexico, this panga boat was found on California's Leo Carrillo Beach in August 2011
As they find more boats on the beaches and make more arrests, U.S. authorities are learning more about how the smuggling operation work, and the degree to which they are coordinated with land-based trafficking operations.
"We've seen some pangas that run directly up onto the beach and upload their cargo," said Sibert. "And then we've seen some that will come in and transfer their load to recreational boats that look less suspicious and try to run them directly into the marinas and yacht clubs."
Many times the panga boat operators will land at night on remote beaches near roads or a highway where they met by other members of the smuggling group. "There's usually an offloading team that will have a rental boxcar, U-Haul, or something of that nature to take the payload and transport it to a stash house where an organization begins the distribution process," said Adams.
[Video: California National Guard members work on secret nighttime surveillance operations to locate smugglers on the seas, attempting to reach the California coast. They use night vision goggles and infrared technology that allows them to see for miles out to sea. ]
A particular concern voiced by many U.S. authorities is the potential national security threat these boats and smugglers represent.  "They're just as willing to smuggle perhaps a weapon of mass destruction as they are a load of narcotics," warned Adams.  "And they're just as willing to smuggle a terrorist as people coming here to work." 
To coordinate their interdiction efforts, federal, state and local law enforcement officials have formed a coastal-area task force. "As they adapt, we will adapt, and they'll continually try to find new ways to get contraband and people into the country, and we're going to be right there nipping at their heels," said Adams.
Authorities conceded, however, that so far they are seeing no let-up in the Mexican maritime smuggling trade, and, in fact, are actually seeing bigger drug loads on boats now than in recent years.
"It's a huge challenge," said Matthews, from the U.S. Border Patrol. "It's an immense geographical area that we have to cover. There is not only single agency that can cover it by itself."

Source: NBC

Read Ovemex'  related post HERE


  1. I am from encinitas, for years I have been reading in local papers that every few days/weeks they find these boats on shore (ponto beach for example) empty, or they catch them coming ashore. Mostly it is just imigrants, but somtimes they find weed.

    This really is not a new development, just the cartels going farther and farther north to avoid heat.

  2. California has Been The mecca for Drugs cartels...

  3. June 5, 2012 1:09 AM .
    A cool head,good on you brother.This kind of story makes people think they are getting overun,when in reality,as you yourself are pointing out"This really is not a new development"

  4. Texas Border Patrol is training more of its agents to monitor maritime snuggling.

  5. I told you guys this was going on. And the fishing vessels have been doing this for a long minute now, at least down here in Southern Cali. So if agencies are finally dropping this (admitting) for two reasons (in my opinion.)
    They don’t want to mess up their case on the submarines I was talking about. Because they don’t even know the whole scoop yet.
    Second because its been meticulously working on its overall agenda of locking citizens in their own country the USA.
    Being real “al cien” they don’t care as much about the trafficking. They care more about regulatating, managing, and controlling the country with the most important armed forces and its people who think they have an opinion in controlling it. But they don’t. At least not how things are going.
    This article states that we “the drug traffiker” doesn’t care about anything but profit. Well……. Does that sound familiar??? Isn’t the LEGAL AGREEMENT you have with all your inverstors and stock holders the same thing??? Its bottom line, correct??
    Now I don’t mind agencies doing their job, because they get rid of a lot of people who are a pain in the ass. But just want to let everyone know. There’s a bigger reason all this shit is going on. So start opening your eyes, question everything, and do what you believe in.
    Were living in a transition right now as we speak. And whether you want to believe it or not. We will be looked back in history one day. So before the internet gets regulated like our own countries have been for the past years. Make sure you put up a fight in anything you believe because its a lot easier now to inform yourself. And again, don’t believe what Im telling you. I expect you to go out and do you own researching. And put in work :)
    Once love is more powerful than Power itself. Then we have finally accomplished the first right human civilization.
    Not all narcos are how they are portrayed. Some are truly good people giving opportunities to those that don’t understand the meaning of who they are? What they are meant for in this world? Or even as little, as having some sense of pride of who they are, where they come from, and what they represent.
    So lets begin to help each other. While still being true to what we believe in. And forget about everything else that is just intoxicating your brain with crap.
    I’ve accomplished all that. I had nothing. Then staring working the wrong way. Been stripped from it. And got it all back, the right way. So now my mission in life is to do the right thing. And I promise each and every agency. You will never catch me slipping again.
    con permiso del Senor,


    SFV and LOS ANGELES AREA. Dub hills

  6. Just for the sake of clarity, Dana Point is NOT adjacent to Huntington Beach. In fact, it is about 25 miles south. I live in Dana Point and the adjacent beach communities are San Clemente to the south and Laguna Beach to the north.

    1. I'm from San Diego, you're exactly right. Those facts are way off.

  7. The worst part (not to mention dirt marijuana) is when they ditch the boats they usually flip them and gas spills everywhere, have seen it happen. Where's the DHS on these things, worthless....

  8. @1:09

    right! but now I am wondering if they have been traffickers and not immigrants. One would think there would be a regular flow of bodies from those pangas. You know how difficult it is to maneuver small boats even in choppy water, and pangas are light weight, so it would seem we would or will see more bodies.

    1. I'm from San Diego, and yeah pangas are mostly used for human trafiking, they hardly ever bust drugs in those pangas, when they actually do get busted, I'm speaking for cases I've seen in the San Diego county area

  9. It seems that drugs would be much more profitable, and immigrants don't need to go to any specific location, just over the border. I'm sure it happens though.

  10. popotla just s of rosarito is where they load pollos and drugs for the journey up north

  11. yes Popotla is just across the free road from the MX Army inspection point. Ironic?

  12. I love stories like this because it gets the locals riled up. The locals have money and guns and if they think they are in danger they will take action.

  13. I don't find any evidence of "unused oil platforms". One time an exhausted wind surfer sought help at an oil platform off CA coast. He nearly got himself shot because, especially since 9/11, they don't take kindly to unauthorized people boarding oil platforms.

    Chivis you need to back that up with a resource.

  14. pangas are a great boat for rough seas

  15. Everybody who thinks this is News has had his head up his Ass for the last 3 years. It started at the end of 2008 when everybody was killing each other in TJ and Tecate, so the ingenious ones said F this I,m going to the ocean for a stab at it. mabey they got a little more balls using Panga's instead of the more conventional vessels but it certainly isn't a New fad..! We know for a fact that they have
    unloaded as far north as "Half Moon Bay" just a lil north of Frisco so tell us something we don't know.

    1. I'm with you, I'm from San Diego and have seen this going on for more like 5 years ago

  16. Nothing New. Its a 1000$panga not a speed boat

  17. Half Moon Bay is south of Frisco and these boats are all carrying marijuana, the smugglers when caught always say they are immigrants who are just trying to get to the US. Coke would be too risky, they are always loosing these loads. This is a relatively new, frequent occurance in the LA/OC area, I can not recall there being this many and I've been on/in/around the water in this area for 20 years. A few months back one landed near a friends neigborhood and there were 10 cartel dudes off the boat and from a waiting truck running around their neigborhood trying to hide from the police, nuts, keep in mind the border is over 200 miles away.....Thanks US govt for keeping marijuana illegal and keeping our streets safe!!!!!

  18. @1:09 AM It is never "just" immigrants. That's the cover story. Anyway, if they're caught with dope they're going to jail, not back home.

  19. Dana point...I should not have used the word adjacent you are correct, it should be near.. It is 22 miles apart down the coast, however the both are close, very close and that was the point of reference, the fact does not changed the story. I will change just for you,

    there is absolutely is oil islands off the coast of so cal. since when does a person need to supply resource when hypothesizing? I thought perhaps they would be a good staging area to drop off drugs for short time for pick up. obviously they cannot venture into "off shore" waters to deliver goods. the thums islands. you see there are off shore and beyond (fed) and islands in both. since the 90s and after the great spills such as HB which effected 60 sq miles no new permits have been issued, any that tap out cannot commenced new drilling. New proposals will reverse that. BTW off shore is 3 miles.

    and yes to the commentor, so cal has been told the bodies were immigrants....and it never was the entire story and that is the point, people wans the truth, good, bad or ugly.

    and what is known by socal residents is far different than a person in Montana or Chicago who would read information.

    using water is not new, what is new is the frequency and volume coming through, mostly trasport was by land...but trafficking never stays status quo, when hot there is a switch.

  20. Who was the one who decided to merge INS with Customs? Probably someone who has never worked hands on doing the work.

  21. Let's build some jails on those islands just for smugglers.

  22. As long as there is demand for drugs, cartels will find any means to get them across. Its just the way things are. Ain't no stopping it.


  23. @Chivis - I thought you knew something about the oil islands be unoccupied and/or unguarded. I didn't catch that you were hypothesizing. Since never dear, calm down. Just because they stop drilling they don't leave their equipment vacant. Offshore is 12 miles. THUMS islands are all inside the Long Beach Breakwater - less than a mile from the beach.

  24. Weapons of mass destruction??? Maybe they should focus on Canada for that. Are they still with that excuse? What's next let's bomb Mexico cause we believe they have weapons of mass destruction. Yes, they do! It's your cocaine and heroin you been asking for. Duh! But wait a minute, didn't the U.S. send weapons to Mexico? Wasn't it the U.S. who armed the Taliban? Now they are worried about weapons coming over. Huh?

  25. Yes, it has become very common, over the past three years to see stories where a panga or two has washed ashore on PB, Mission Bay, all up the lower SC coast, sometimes they find up to 20 pounds of marijuana, but mostly just poor, scared, immigrants. I'm assuming they are bringing large loads in, just lost less frequently. Didn't some middle class kids get caught recently in LA bringing in work on someone sailboat?

  26. new techniques?! hahahahahahahahahaha we used to service narco-pangas on ensenada since the mid 90's this ain't no new technique amigos

  27. Everybody who thinks this is News has had his head up his Ass for the last 3 years. It started at the end of 2008 when everybody was killing each other in TJ and Tecate, so the ingenious ones said F this I,m going to the ocean for a stab at it. mabey they got a little more balls using Panga's instead of the more conventional vessels but it certainly isn't a New fad..! We know for a fact that they have
    unloaded as far north as "Half Moon Bay" just a lil north of Frisco so tell us something we don't know.

    This guy has HIS head up his ASS cuz im in Half Moon Bay right now and it isnt north of Frisco Dumbass , Its SOUTH of Frisco , HA HA WHAT A DUMB ASS !!!


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