A CBP press release announced on Friday that Marine Interdiction Agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine (OAM) stopped a marijuana smuggling attempt early Tuesday morning off the coast of Catalina Island, seizing more than one ton of marijuana and catching seven people aboard a sailboat and a panga both involved in the scheme. On August 22, a marine interdiction crew was on patrol in a Midnight Express interceptor boat just south of Catalina Island, about 80 nautical miles from San Diego and about 45 nautical miles from Los Angeles/Long Beach. At about 3 a.m., the crew spotted a sailboat in the area. The crew of the sailboat signaled with a flashing light in the direction of the OAM vessel, and the marine interdiction agents boarded the sailboat. On board the sail boat, the agents discovered three persons, as well as a loaded shotgun, a .40 caliber pistol, and night vision equipment. Shortly after the encounter with the sailboat, OAM launched a Blackhawk helicopter from San Diego to patrol the area, suspecting that the sailboat may have been involved with another vessel attempting to swap illegal contraband from boat to boat. At about 5:45 a.m., the air interdiction agents in the Blackhawk spotted a panga with two engines, occupied by four persons and loaded with bales of possible contraband heading northeast, and located about five nautical miles from the location where the sailboat had been intercepted. Soon after the Blackhawk spotted the panga, the individuals on board changed course and began dumping bales overboard.
Approximately 45 minutes later, a second OAM marine interdiction crew intercepted the panga, and after a brief chase, stopped the vessel. Agents recovered 130 packages of marijuana, weighing about 2,357 pounds, with an estimated street value of more than $1 million. OAM agents seized both the panga and the sailboat, as well as the marijuana, and turned the seven suspects over to the Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force (LA BEST), spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI.) The seven suspects, who are charged in a criminal complaint with importation of a controlled substance, made their initial appearances in federal court Thursday afternoon. From the sailboat, the defendants are: Jeremy Alan Brislin, a 40-year-old U.S. citizen and resident of Huntington Beach, Calif.; Terrance Joseph Hirchag, a 46-year-old U.S. citizen and resident of San Clemente, Calif.; and Andrew Matthew Empson, a 49-year-old U.S. citizen and resident of Long Beach, Calif. From the panga, the defendants are Carlos Santana-Diaz, a 36-year-old Mexican citizen, and resident of Sonora, Mexico; Ramon Zuniga-Juarez, a 20-year-old Mexican citizen and resident of Sinaloa, Mexico; Joel Amabisca-Arillano, a 34-year-old Mexican citizen and resident of Sonora, Mexico; and Jesus Beltran-Zuniga, an 18-year-old Mexican citizen and resident of Tijuana. We are reminded that a charge is not a conviction and those suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
via : cannabis
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