Police believe that a Mexican smuggling boat, or panga, may have contained up to 40 people when it landed off the Palos Verdes Peninsula this morning. Authorities say 25 suspected illegal immigrants were detained. Port police, Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement officers were called into assist after the U.S. Coast Guard found the open-hulled panga off the PVP coastline at dawn. Chuck Bennett/Staff Photographer
U.S. Border Patrol agents had been surveilling the boat, which carried 19 men and six women, for a possible smuggling operation, according to Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Authorities arrested those aboard as the boat approached the shore just off Abalone Cove at about 5 a.m.
In addition to ICE, the U.S. Coast Guard and several state and local law enforcement agencies are assisting in the investigation.
By Sandy Mazza Staff Writer
Posted: 12/10/2012 08:23:10 AM PST
Some passengers cried as they were photographed and interviewed by Homeland Security investigators. Most were dressed casually in sweatshirts and jeans.
"The 25 individuals are being interviewed by (Homeland Security) investigators to develop further evidence related to the smuggling attempt and identify and suspects who were complicit in the scheme," Kice said.
"Those subjects who are not held for possible criminal prosecution will be remanded to the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol to be processed and repatriated."
Maritime smuggling activity has increased off the Southern California coast in recent years, Kice said. There have been more than 200 intercepted human- and drug-smuggling operations this year alone, she said.
On Dec. 2, U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III was killed as he and others approached a panga suspected of being involved in drug smuggling off the coast of Santa Cruz Island.
Horne, a 34-year-old Redondo Beach resident, was approaching the panga with three other investigators in an inflatable boat when the suspect's vessel rammed into them. Horne, a married father of two with a third child on the way, suffered a fatal head wound when he and another man were thrown into the ocean.