Ocean-faring drug smugglers have been spotted on the Central Coast again, this time resulting in at least 14 arrests.
- STEVE E. MILLER
- HIGH FLYING WEED: A California Highway Patrol helicopter dropped off bundles of marijuana found at a remote beach near Piedras Blancas for Sheriff’s Department trucks to haul them off to the sheriff’s headquarters.
On Sept. 6, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department received an early-morning report that a panga boat, often used for drug and human trafficking, was spotted on the sand near the Piedras Blancas lighthouse. Sheriff’s deputies, California Highway Patrol, and California Department of Fish and Game officers were dispatched to the area, where a roughly 35-foot boat was located near Carpoforo Creek Road, according to a department release.
A number of bales of marijuana were also found at the site. A witness reported seeing subjects carrying parcels to a motor home located nearby. Traffic stops of the motor home, as well as a white truck and a black sedan also suspected to be involved, took place south of the scene on Highway 1 near Geronimo Road, just north of Cayucos.
Officials arrested 14 suspects from the motor home and two from the sedan, officials reported. The arrestees haven’t been identified as of press time. Three more individuals were spotted being questioned by sheriff’s deputies as a New Times photographer was leaving the scene.
This is the second panga boat found off the San Luis Obispo County coastline since May of this year. No arrests were made for the first find.
Similar incidents occur regularly in southerly coastal areas, and as more arrests are made in those regions, authorities expect panga operators to set their sights farther north—on San Luis Obispo County.
Pangas are typically used as fishing vessels, though not in California, and are thought to originate from launching areas just south of the U.S.-Tijuana border. They’re perfect for drug- and human-smuggling, law enforcement officials say, due to their shape and size.
As of press time, California Department of Fish and Game officials were having difficulty removing the boat from the beach. ∆