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Deputy Finds RV Full of Marijuana, Panga Near Rincon Beach

Highway 101 was shut down for a time while investigators rounded up 9 suspects

Investigators examine the panga found early Wednesday on Rincon Beach. (John Palminteri / KEYT News photo)

A sheriff's deputy discovered a marijuana operation involving a motor home and a panga boat near Rincon Beach early Wednesday, according to the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.

The deputies "kind of interrupted this panga boat unloading into a motor home," Captain Don Aguilar said. There was a "significant" amount of marijuana being unloaded from the boat, obviously not for personal use, he said. 

At about 3:15 a.m., the deputy saw five people unloading about a ton of marijuana from a panga boat that was near the Rincon Beach area, and called in backup from the California Highway Patrol, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department and Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, said CHP public information Officer Steve Reid. 

The suspects fled on foot, many of them running along freeway lanes, which led to a massive search and Highway 101 closures, Reid said.

The southbound lanes near Bates Road were closed for about 70 minutes, and the northbound lanes were closed for half an hour. All lanes were open again by 5:30 a.m. 

U.S. Coast Guard helicopters and sheriff's department canines assisted with the search, Reid said. 

The panga is approximately 30 feet long with two outboard engines, said Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for U.S. Homeland Security.

As of 2:40 p.m. Wednesday, 10 people had been detained for questioning, and the investigation is being handled by Homeland Security, she said. The Ventura County Sheriff's Department found about 1,800 pounds of marijuana at the scene, she said. 

The panga boat was towed to a dock, somewhere south of Ventura County, and the Sheriff's Department urges anyone to call if they see anything suspicious, Aguilar said. Ventura County narcotics unit members are logging the marijuana and will then hand it over to Homeland Security, he said.  

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli 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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