U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercept suspected smuggling boat

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – A Mexican fishing vessel loaded with 23 undocumented Mexican nationals was intercepted by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection interceptor vessel early yesterday morning off the coast of Torrey Pines.

The interceptor crew, composed of CBP marine interdiction agents, a U.S. Border Patrol agent and a CBP officer, was on patrol at 3:50 a.m. about four miles west of the Torrey Pines golf course when it visually observed the 26-foot blue and white panga vessel loaded with occupants.

The suspect vessel yielded after CBP agents on board the pursuing interceptor turned on law enforcement and flood lights.

Agents approached the boat and found 19 males and 4 females on board, all of whom were wearing life vests and appeared to have no injuries.

After agents determined the individuals were undocumented Mexican nationals, the vessel was towed to a secure storage location and the individuals were transported to a local Border Patrol station for processing.

The boat, which did not have any apparent registration markings, is being seized by CBP.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ICE agents currently are processing and interviewing everyone on board for possible criminal prosecution. The group currently is being held in Border Patrol custody.

Agents of the San Diego Marine Task Force are also investigating a similar vessel that was discovered abandoned on the beach this morning at Torrey Pines. The blue and white 26-foot panga was suspected of ferrying undocumented individuals from Mexico. Agents found approximately 21 life vests on or around the abandoned vessel.

The apprehension this morning follows the interception of two other vessels over the weekend by U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team San Diego officers on patrol.

A 25-foot sailing vessel with four persons on board was intercepted inside San Diego bay at about midnight on February 1. A lone U.S. citizen and three undocumented individuals were turned over to San Diego Marine Task Force agents for investigation.

Another 17-foot vessel traveling north from the international maritime boundry with four persons on board was intercepted by U.S. Coast Guard officers at about 9 a.m. on January 31. Two persons identified as alleged smugglers and two other undocumented persons were turned over to task force agents.

The vessels were seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection marine interdiction agents.

“The integration of personnel, resources, and prosecution efforts clearly demonstrates a focused, layered enforcement approach to prevent any threat from entering our coastal borders,” said Michael Fisher, chief of the U.S. Border Patrol’s San Diego sector.

The San Diego Marine Task Force is composed of officers and agents from U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices of Air/Marine and Border Patrol, San Diego Harbor Police, Chula Vista Police Department and Coronado Police Department.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

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