15 arrested as Border Patrol says agents break up maritime smuggling ring

[The U.S. Border Patrol said this boat, left on Beacon’s Beach in Encinitas, was used to smuggle people into the country last Friday.
(Courtesy U.S. Border Patrol)

The arrests came within hours after people fled a beached boat in Encinitas

JUNE 30, 2020 3:58 PM
SAN DIEGO — Within hours after a boat landed on a state beach in Encinitas and the occupants took off running, federal agents found and arrested 15 people, dismantling a suspected smuggling ring, the U.S. Border Patrol said Tuesday.

About 3:30 p.m. Friday, a 25-foot pleasure craft came ashore at Beacon’s Beach, the agency said in a news release. According to the Border Patrol, witnesses said they saw 11 people running on the beach, and two more scrambling up the cliffs.

Agents searched but could not find anyone. They did, however, discover 13 life jackets in the empty boat.

Using what the agency described as “previously developed intelligence,” as well as talking with witnesses, they found the group they suspected was involved in smuggling people into the United States via the ocean.

Before the end of the Friday night, agents arrested eight people they suspect had been on the boat.

The eight consisted of seven Mexican men and one Mexican woman, ages 22 to 39 years old, whom the agency said are believed to have entered the United States illegally.

Border Patrol Agents also arrested seven suspected smugglers, some of whom the agency believes had acted as getaway drivers in Friday’s event. Of the seven, three are Mexican, and four are U.S. citizens.

The agency also seized four vehicles they believe were used in the alleged smuggling scheme.

In the news release, San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke praised the “hard work and diligence the agents displayed in this case.”

“Our agents dismantled an entire smuggling ring through the use of targeted intelligence,” Heitke said.