U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested nine people, including three alleged smugglers, on Monday after they were discovered aboard a boat off the Southern California coast.
Border Patrol was alerted after the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted a “pleasure craft” near Oceanside, north of San Diego, in an apparent “smuggling attempt,” officials said in a press release. The Coast Guard led the boat to a nearby harbor, where the people aboard were interviewed by Border Patrol agents.
“During interviews, agents discovered that the nine Mexican nationals on-board had entered the United States illegally,” the release said.
It was the 64th maritime smuggling event in the San Diego area since the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In the 2020 fiscal year, San Diego Sector Border Patrol handled 309 smuggling events at sea, the agency said.
Three of the nine people were arrested on felony human smuggling charges, officials said. All nine were arrested and three are being held as material witnesses. The boat was seized.
“As a constant reminder to the public, if you see something out of the ordinary near the coast, don’t hesitate to call authorities,” Chief Patrol Agent Aaron M. Heitke said in the release. “These vessels are dangerously overloaded and unsafe in the ever changing ocean conditions. Smugglers exploit migrants and put lives in significant danger for their own profit.”
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