Eighteen people were arrested — and a large quantity of drugs was seized — Friday after a panga boat was detected coming ashore near Refugio State Beach, according to U.S. Imigration and Customs Enforcement.
People were unloading suspected bales of marijuana at Arroyo Quemada Beach, so Homeland Security, the U.S. Coast Guard, Border Patrol and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene a little after midnight, ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said.
Authorities seized about 2,000 pounds of suspected drugs, and arrested 14 people, who have not been identified.
Four other suspects who were found hiding in the Arroyo Quemada area were arrested later in the day, according to Kelly Hoover, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.
National Guard surveillance initially spotted the panga and called it in to local law enforcement, which led to the huge response, First Lt. Kara Siepmann said.
Siepmann is the public information officer for the Joint Task Force Domestic Support - Counterdrug, which supports law enforcement.
Homeland Security investigators also made a traffic stop in Camarillo of a vehicle that had departed from the smuggling site, and the two occupants fled on foot when stopped, Haley said.
Those two suspects have not been found, and there was suspected contraband found in the vehicle.
Homeland Security investigators are pursuing the case and interviewing suspects, Haley said.