SANTA BARBARA (CBSLA) – Thirty-three people were arrested and more than 3,100 pounds of methamphetamine were seized from a panga boat off the Santa Barbara County coastline early Wednesday morning, marking one of the largest meth seizures in U.S. history.
The 3,164-pound seizure occurred just after 3 a.m. off Arroyo Quemada Beach as part of an ongoing multiagency investigation, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office reports.
Authorities had been tracking the 40-foot homemade boat since it had departed Mexico. 33 people involved in the trafficking operation, including 29 men, one woman and three juveniles, were taken into custody, the sheriff’s department reports. The juveniles were later released to their parents.
The boat was equipped with three, 300-horsepower Yamaha engines.
“Today’s seizure of a panga boat illicitly smuggling more than a ton-and-a-half of methamphetamine into our county, and the arrest of the 33 suspects responsible for transporting and unloading its ruinous cargo, was a major milestone in counter-drug operations in Santa Barbara County,” Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown said in a statement.
It marked the largest meth seizure in Santa Barbara County history, and one of the largest in U.S. history, the sheriff’s department noted.
The 30 adults – who hailed from Santa Barbara, Goleta, Riverside, Mira Loma, Riverside and several other Southland cities — were all arrested on charges of conspiracy and transportation of narcotics for sale. It’s unclear what charges the juveniles will face.
The FBI, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard, California State Parks Police and California Highway Patrol all assisted in the seizure.