US AMO in San Diego Disrupt 8 Maritime Smuggling Events in 4 Days

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) San Diego Air and Marine Branch crews worked with law enforcement partners to disrupt eight maritime smuggling events in the Southern California area between July 9 and July 12.

Over the four-day period, AMO and partners apprehended 80 undocumented non-citizens and seized seven vessels, plus a load vehicle involved in illicit activity.     

Collaboration with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners proved key to success accounting for 70 percent of apprehensions during the reporting timeframe.

“Without these strong partnerships, curbing the flow of maritime smuggling would be nearly impossible,” said Long Beach Marine Unit Supervisory Marine Interdiction Agent, John Doucette. “Our mission, is to deter maritime smuggling and to tirelessly pursue those who continue to take advantage of the vulnerable in search of greater profit.” 

Long Beach Marine Unit (LBMU) Marine Interdiction Agents worked with interagency partners in two incidents on July 9. At 7:15 AM, AMO agents and law enforcement partners found 16 personal flotation devices and eight fuel cans onboard an abandoned panga at Surfrider Beach in Malibu. LBMU agents seized the vessel. Later that day, task force partners reported a suspect vessel attempting to dock at in Alamitos Bay and observed several people throwing what appeared to be electronic devices (and a possible firearm) overboard. Law enforcement officers apprehended 27 undocumented non-citizens and LBMU agents seized the vessel.

Long Beach- and San Diego-based AMO Coastal Interceptor Vessel crews and Marine Interdiction Agents responded to five maritime smuggling incidents on July 10:

  • On Saturday, around 2 AM PST , AMO agents received a report of a suspect panga vessel that landed on the beach near Pelican Cove. Interagency partners apprehended one non-citizen and Long Beach-based agents seized the vessel.
  • Around 3:15 PM PST, LBMU Marine Interdiction Agents apprehended seven non-citizens during a multi-agency operation, after responding to a report that a vessel had dropped off undocumented migrants at Parker’s Lighthouse in Long Beach, California.
  • At 4 PM PST, a San Diego-based Coastal Interceptor Vessel crew apprehended 15 undocumented non-citizens onboard a suspect sailing vessel near Mission Bay.
  • Just after 4 PM PST, Marine Interdiction Agents based in Long Beach responded to reports of a smuggling event at Mother’s Beach. The agents found six migrants hiding below deck. Law enforcement partners apprehended four additional migrants in the adjacent park.
  • At 4:35 PM PST, CBP partners observed several people tie a vessel to a dock and quickly enter a waiting vehicle nearby during a multi-agency operation in Newport Beach. LBMU agents seized the vessel and a vehicle, and six non-citizens were apprehended.

In the early morning hours of July 12, a San Diego Air and Marine Branch Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft crew detected a suspect panga vessel near Point Loma. Agents vectored in a Coastal Interceptor Vessel crew who apprehended 14 people and seized the panga.

“Smuggling along the California coastline is inherently dangerous for all of the involved parties,” said Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke.  “I’m thankful that our agents and partners stand ready to combat all threats against our coastal borders because border security is national security.”

AMO  arrest
AMO Long Beach Marine Unit agents and partners responded to a
maritime smuggling event at Mother’s Beach, Alamitos Bay, Long
Beach, CA. AMO agents and OFO partners apprehended 10
undocumented non-citizens.

AMO partner organizations involved in the week’s enforcement events include: Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Regional Coordination Mechanism (ReCoM), CBP Office of Field Operations, Homeland Security Investigations Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force (HSI LA BEST), United States Coast Guard (USCG), and United States Border Patrol (USBP). Law enforcement officers transferred all apprehended non-citizens to the San Clemente Border Patrol Station for processing.

San Diego Air and Marine Branch is part of AMO’s Southwest Region, a region that spans more than 2,000 miles of linear border and is responsible for conducting federal aviation, maritime, and land law enforcement operations within Nevada, Oklahoma, and the four southwest border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. AMO’s Southwest Region includes the coastal waters off southern California and Texas and some of the most inhospitable desert and mountain terrain in the United States. In FY 20, Southwest Region crews arrested 407 individuals, apprehended 38,892 individuals, and seized 240,966 pounds of narcotics, 294 weapons, and $15,637,866 USD.