During the early morning hours on Sunday March 17th, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office was summoned to the area of Arroyo Camada Beach, north of Refugio State Beach, to investigate a possible ”Panga” boat located at the beach, as well as suspected Marijuana bales strewn about the area. The location where the “Panga” was found is comprised of lands owned by California State Parks.
Sheriff’s patrol personnel, as well as Sheriff’s Narcotics Investigators responded to Arroyo Camada beach to investigate the circumstances. Upon arrival, they located an apparently abandoned 30 foot “Panga” style boat with 2 outboard engines and 20+ fuel containers on board. Sheriff’s detectives located a significant amount of evidence that was consistent with marijuana smuggling activities, including trash and debris that was strewn about the beach and nearby coastal access trails.
Narcotics detectives recovered 50 plastic-wrapped bales of marijuana, weighing approximately 2,000 pounds, with an estimated street value of 4 million dollars. The bales of marijuana were found partially secreted within bushes, adjacent to the roadway leading to and from Arroyo Camada Beach. A Sheriff’s K9 unit searched the immediate area for any associated suspects and additional evidence of marijuana smuggling. Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Narcotics Detective’s seized the marijuana and associated evidence left behind by the smugglers.
The seized evidence will undergo further examination and processing as part of an ongoing criminal investigation by the Sheriff’s Narcotics Investigation Unit, conducted in conjunction with federal investigators from HSI. The boat and its fuel containers were removed by Vessel Assist / HSI, and will be turned over to the federal government.
“Panga” style boats are small watercraft powered by one or more outboard motors. They are commonly used by fishermen in developing countries and have become increasingly popular with smugglers engaged in transporting illegal immigrants, narcotics, or other contraband from Mexico to the United States. Between 2012 and 2013, more than 20 “Panga” style boats have landed on the Santa Barbara County coastline, transporting cargos of narcotics, illegal immigrants and/ or other contraband. The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office is asking the public to be aware of this increasing problem and to please contact Law Enforcement immediately if they see any suspicious boats in Santa Barbara County waters and/ or any suspicious activity on Highway 101, adjacent to coastal beach access.