Panga beaches near Gaviota, smugglers caught with pot

By CCT STAFF

Law enforcement officers swarmed a panga boat that beached in Santa Barbara County early Thursday morning and caught 20 suspected “transnational smugglers” with large amounts of marijuana and cannabis oil.

At about 3:30 a.m., the United States Coast Guard informed local and federal law enforcement agencies a panga boat was possibly heading toward the area of Gaviota Beach and Hollister Ranch. Investigators then located numerous suspects who were in the process of unloading a 50-foot panga that had been beached about a half mile north of Gaviota near Hollister Ranch, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.

In addition to making 20 arrests, authorities seized numerous plastic burlap-style bags that contained a total of 5,300 pounds of dried marijuana. Officers also seized more than 40 gallons of marijuana crude oil.

Homeland Security agents took custody of the suspects and transported them to a federal detention facility. 

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Cannabis Compliance Team, narcotics detectives, K-9 units, the Santa Barbara County Air Support Unit, Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies, CHP officers and California State Parks personnel also took part in the raid on the panga boat.