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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 11:41 pm | Fair 50º


Abandoned Panga Boat Found Onshore Near Refugio Beach

Sheriff's Department asks the public to be on the lookout after several suspicious vessels surfaced recently off Santa Barbara County

An abandoned panga boat was discovered by California State Parks employees on Wednesday on the shore south of Refugio Beach.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Drew Sugars said there were no people or cargo on the 30-foot boat, but that there was evidence it had been used to smuggle illicit drugs.

The vessel has been turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is conducting an investigation.

The Sheriff’s Department has had several reports of the panga boats seen offshore recently. One was seen off the coast in Montecito on Feb. 1, one off the coast of Refugio Beach in January and one off the Gaviota Coast last fall.

Law enforcement say the boats are commonly used by fishermen in developing countries and have become increasingly popular with smugglers transporting illegal immigrants, narcotics or other contraband from Mexico to the United States.

The Sheriff’s Department is asking the public to contact law enforcement if they see any suspicious boats in the ocean off Santa Barbara County. They can also call the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s toll-free 24-hour tip line at 866.DHS.2ICE.

Noozhawk managing editor Michelle Nelson can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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