Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Deputies arrested 18 people early Saturday morning after catching them smuggling more than 3,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States by panga boat at a beach near Goleta.
At approximately 1 a.m., deputies conducted surveillance in the area of Arroyo Quemada Lane and Highway 101 in an attempt to combat “panga style” boats smuggling marijuana. Drug-traffickers commonly use panga boats at night in an effort to evade law enforcement.
Shortly before 5 a.m, detectives spotted a truck leaving the beach and heading southbound on Highway 101. Before the deputies made contact with the driver, the unknown Hispanic male exited the truck and fled into a nearby creek bed. Detectives found more than a dozen bales of marijuana they believe was smuggled into the United States from Mexico in the truck.
Surveillance units then stopped three more vehicles they spotted leaving the beach. In a van, deputies discovered several dozen additional bales of marijuana. The other two vehicles were transporting multiple people who smelled of fuel and were covered in sand and water.
“This is consistent with smugglers transferring marijuana bales from the panga boat to load vehicles,” according to the sheriff’s department.
Law enforcement seized 120 bales of marijuana from the van and the pick-up truck. During a search of the beach, deputies found a large panga-style boat.
The sheriff’s department is not releasing the identities of the 18 men deputies arrested at this time.