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Panga Boat Bust 9/6

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New Times / News

The following article was posted on June 5th, 2013, in the New Times - Volume 27, Issue 45 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 27, Issue 45

Panga bust nets lots of dope

BY MATT FOUNTAIN

SLO County Sheriff’s Department officials announced that the recent arrest of suspected drug traffickers came with a major find: 53 bales—roughly 1,900 pounds—of marijuana reportedly worth some $1.3 million.

According to a department press release, deputies spotted suspicious vehicles traveling into Montaña de Oro State Park just after midnight on May 29. The sheriff’s Special Operations Unit was called in to investigate.

At approximately 6:30 a.m., officers observed people and packages being loaded into the vehicles. After initiating traffic stops on Los Osos Valley Road, investigators reported discovering a “large quantity” of what they believed was marijuana. At the same time, a roughly 35-foot panga was discovered along a secluded beach near Montaña de Oro
State Park.

As of press time on May 29, the department had yet to release the names of the 14 suspects, nor how much marijuana was seized. It wasn’t until the next day that the department released the fact that only three of the people arrested—including one 17-year-old—were U.S. citizens. Department Spokesman Tony Cipolla told New Times the rest were from Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Cipolla didn’t say, however, whether the suspects were thought to be connected to Mexican drug cartels, adding that the investigation is still ongoing and they’re looking into just that.

The incident marks the fifth time—that authorities know of—a panga has made its way to San Luis Obispo County. The first panga landing occurred on May 24, 2012, on a remote beach near Piedras Blancas. As is usually the case, by the time authorities discovered the boat, the suspected traffickers were long gone.

In January, local law enforcement agencies received grants from the federal government to combat the rising tide of panga boats, the vast majority of which are suspected to come from across the U.S.-Mexico border.