SAN DIEGO–U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations U.S. Border Patrol Monday interdict and identify the captain of a human smuggling vessel off the coast of southern California.
The San Diego Air and Marine Branch BE-350 Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft detected at 11:30 p.m. a possible light out vessel by radar off the Southern California Coast headed north towards the maritime boundary line between Mexico and the United States. At around 11:45 p.m., the vessel crossed the boundary line and continued its northbound course. The Marine Branch provided the vessel’s location course and a Coastal Interceptor Vessel from the Border Patrol to make the interdiction. By around 1 a.m., the vessel stopped a 20ft Inflatable (Zodiac style) vessel with a single outboard motor with 11 passengers on board approximately 7 NM west of North Torrey Pines Nature Preserve. The vessel was seized by Marine Branch and persons were turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol.
“This smuggling event is an example of the extreme risks smugglers take to bring people illegally into the United States,” said Acting Deputy Director, Marine Operations Kris Goland. “It’s fortunate that this event came to a safe ending considering the smuggling vessel was way overloaded with people, at night, without navigation lights, in an inflatable boat, way offshore of San Diego”.
Border Patrol agents took custody of the passengers and determined they were illegally in the United States. The passengers in the U.S. were taken to a local border patrol station for further processing. The group consisted of seven adult Mexican males, two adult Mexican females, one Mexican unaccompanied child, and one adult Brazilian male. The captain of the vessel has been identified and prosecution is being sought for human smuggling.
“Maritime smuggling is extremely dangerous and smugglers place an emphasis on monetary gain over victim safety,” stated U.S. Border Patrol San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke.