Maritime Unified Command foils drug smuggling attempts, nabs 4 suspects

11th Coast Guard District NewsSAN DIEGO – The coordinated efforts of the San Diego Maritime Unified Command resulted in the seizure of two smuggling boats, more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana and the apprehension of four suspected smugglers off the coast of San Diego county Friday, July 1, 2011.

Crews from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine, U.S. Navy and San Diego Marine Taskforce worked together in the interdiction.

A commercial commuter pilot alerted the Joint Harbor Operations Center of a suspicious boat transiting near San Clemente Island Thursday evening. A Coast Guard cutter and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter were diverted to the area to search for the boat.

A Navy vessel transiting in the area spotted the suspicious boat and maintained radar contact until the Coast Guard crews arrived at approximately 9:30 p.m. A boarding team from the cutter stopped the fleeing boat and took the two suspected smugglers into custody. The cutter’s crew also seized the boat and 112 bales of marijuana.

At approximately 5 a.m., Friday, another suspected smuggling boat was sighted near Point Loma, Calif.

A CBP 39-foot Interceptor Class boat, AStar helicopter and a Coast Guard 33-foot Special Purpose Craft- Law Enforcement boat diverted to intercept the smuggling boat, which appeared to be fleeing south.

The CBP boat crew intercepted the boat and took it, and two suspects, into custody. The Coast Guard boat crew recovered 21 bales of marijuana that had been jettisoned during the pursuit.

The four suspected smugglers, two smuggling boats and 2,200 pounds of marijuana were taken to San Diego, where they were turned over to MTF personnel.

The Maritime Unified Command is comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, CBP’s Office of Air & Marine, U.S. Border Patrol, ICE and state and local law enforcement partners operating in the San Diego and Orange County maritime domain. The MUC utilizes the fusion of intelligence, planning and operations to target the threat of transnational crime along the coastal border.

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