Sunday, June 17 , 2018, 11:20 pm | Fair 58º


Local News

Mexican National Convicted in Panga Marijuana Smuggling Attempt in Santa Barbara County

A Mexican national faces up to life in prison after being convicted on federal drug-trafficking charges for attempting to smuggle nearly two tons of marijuana into Santa Barbara County in a panga boat.

Jose Guadalupe Zepeda-Ramirez, 24, of Tecate was accused of piloting a panga that was discovered on March 27, 2015, on a private beach at Hollister Ranch on the Gaviota Coast.

Zepeda-Ramirez and another man — Miguel Rodriguez-Doranme, 39, of La Paz, Mexico — brought the marijuana from Ensenada, Mexico, during a six-day journey, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

“The men had planned to meet a second crew that would off-load the marijuana for further distribution,” the statement said. “The plan was thwarted when Zepeda-Ramirez and Rodriguez-Doranme were spotted while landing on Alegria Beach.”

The pair were detained by a Hollister Ranch security guard until law enforcement arrived.

The panga — an open-bowed fishing vessel with large outboard motors — was loaded with more than 3,650 pounds of marijuana, officials said.

U.S. District Judge Manuel Real presided over Zepeda-Ramirez’s trial, and is scheduled to sentence him on Sept. 19.

Zepeda-Ramirez faces at least 10 years in federal prison, and could be sentenced to life behind bars, officials said.

Rodriguez-Doranme, who previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy, is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 1 and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

“Law enforcement is working hard at curtailing the smuggling of drugs on panga boats,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “We will continue enforcement efforts by prosecuting those who engage in this dangerous method of smuggling.”

The investigation was conducted by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the California Highway Patrol and the California National Guard.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >