Santa Barbara- S County

Drug smuggling boat towed to Ventura Harbor

Search continues for suspects and marijuana

VENTURA, Calif. - Capt. Paul Amaral of Vessel Assist said it took about 12 hours to tow the latest smuggling boat found on the coast of Santa Barbara County to Ventura.

Amaral towed it from Arroyo Quemada Beach, north of Refugio, all the way to his dock in the Ventura Harbor.

Homeland Security investigators will put it on a trailer Tuesday and tow it to a federal evidence yard in Orange County where it will be held as evidence in case arrests are made.

In this case the smugglers left behind the wrapping investigators usually see on bales of marijuana.

They also left behind their 33-foot boat and two-stroke motors that are illegal in the U.S. because they pollute.

The boat, discovered by residents on May 17, was the second one found in the area in the past two months.

The first one was found March 17.   Smugglers got away then too, but they left bales of marijuana hidden in some bushes by the road.

Agent Dave Wales said they will be difficult to find now, but he said they are working hard to find the people behind the operation in Mexico.

If co-conspirators are arrested they will face federal charges in Los Angeles.

They could also face deportation if they came to the U.S. illegally.

Vessel Assist has recovered seven boats between Santa Barbara and Monterey Counties this year.

Investigators said the smugglers may be dangerous.

Last year, a Coast Guard officer was killed when he hit a propeller after being rammed by a smuggling boat near the Channel Islands.

If anyone sees something suspicious, call 911 and let law enforcement handle it.

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