Three people were taken into custody on suspicion of federal drug charges after an ocean pursuit off Malibu Tuesday night. Los Angeles County lifeguards reportedly called LA sheriff’s deputies around 10:30 p.m. claiming that they saw a boat roughly 50 feet off Latigo Beach and the lifeguards apparently assumed that contraband was aboard.

LA deputies reportedly investigated the potential drug smuggling tip and say that they confirmed that the vessel was a panga boat. Deputies then called in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Federal officials dispatched its air and marine unit and authorities claim that three people aboard the panga dumped items overboard before an ocean pursuit began.

Federal officials claim the three aboard the panga were smuggling marijuana from Mexico. Officials apparently caught up to the panga roughly 11 nautical miles southwest of Point Dume and took three Mexican nationals into custody on suspicion of drug smuggling.

Federal authorities say that the U.S. Coast Guard has found roughly 80 bales of marijuana in the ocean and federal officials suspect that the bales can be linked to the panga boat chase. The U.S. Coast Guard is reportedly looking for more contraband in the ocean.

A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says that each of the bales found in the ocean weighs 20 pounds. The alleged marijuana drug smuggling incident is reportedly the fourth such maritime drug smuggling interdiction off the Los Angeles Coast in less than a week, according to a report in the LA Daily Breeze.

The three Mexican Nationals reportedly remain in custody and authorities expect to present the three Mexican nationals for prosecution on federal drug smuggling charges.

Few details are known concerning what authorities may have found on the boat itself. The Los Angeles Times reports that the panga was towed into Marina Del Rey Tuesday night.


Los Angeles Daily Breeze, “UPDATED: 80 bales of pot recovered; 3 suspected smugglers from Mexico held after pursuit off Malibu coast,” April 25, 2012

Los Angeles Times, “Three suspected drug smugglers arrested off Malibu” April 25, 2012