LOS ANGELES– Federal authorities on Saturday arrested 13 people after law enforcement authorities interdicted nearly 3,000 pounds of marijuana that they were trying to smuggle into the United States by panga boat at Arroyo Quemada Beach in southern Santa Barbara County, just north of the city of Santa Barbara. All 13 defendants were named in a criminal complaint filed Sunday that charges them with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.
“Smuggling by panga boat endangers the lives of both the smugglers and authorities interdicting the boats and their payloads,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Law enforcement has and will continue to use all available means to curtail this dangerous activity.”
According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint filed yesterday, the United States Coast Guard first observed the panga boat at Arroyo Quemada Beach early Saturday morning. The affidavit notes that drug-traffickers commonly use panga boats at night in an effort to evade law enforcement.
In this case, authorities believe that three people were in the boat, and approximately 15 people were observed on shore helping to unload the bales of marijuana. Two vans and a pick-up truck separately drove to the beach, and bales of marijuana were loaded into the pick-up and one of the vans. The vehicles then departed the beach at about the same time, but they went in separate directions. One van, which was being used to transport the marijuana, was stopped in Camarillo; the second van, which was being used to transport people, was stopped when it returned to Arroyo Quemada Beach; and the pick-up, which was being used to transport marijuana, was stopped in Carpinteria. Law enforcement seized 114 bales of marijuana from the van stopped in Camarillo and the pick-up truck stopped in Carpinteria.
Authorities arrested the following individuals:
· Hector Raul Bernal-Lara, 41;
· Ricardo Sanchez-Marquez, 36;
· Daniel Aguilar, 25;
· Mark Garcia, 23;
· Susana Tobaldo, 42;
· Kevin Tes, 22;
· Josh Rubio, 21;
· Alfonso Aguilar-Ballestros, 48;
· Jesus Moreno-Sepulveda, 31;
· Santiago Galvan-Carrillo, 48;
· Paul Armenta-Bueno, 34;
· Bryan Castro, 18; and
· Daniel Fernando-Huizar, 26.
All 13 defendants are expected to make their initial appearances today in federal court in Los Angeles.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The statutory maximum penalty for a violation of possession nearly 3,000 pounds of marijuana with the intent to distribute it is life in prison.
The investigation in this case was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Border Patrol, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, and the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.
USAO – California, Central Updated February 1, 2016
Central District of California DOJ / 16-018 / February 01, 2016