17 Arrested in Human Smuggling Attempt at Sea

The panga boat was first spotted west of Catalina Island

Seventeen Mexican nationals were taken into U.S. Border Patrol custody after agents thwarted a smuggling attempt at sea.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents with first spotted a 27-foot panga boat around 5:30 p.m. Friday off the coast of Long Beach, about seven miles west of Santa Catalina Island.

Since there were no identifications numbers on the hull, agents called in the U.S. Coast Guard in Los Angeles to help.

About 45 minutes later, the Coast Guard boat intercepted the panga, and Border Patrol agents soon found out that all 17 people on board were Mexican nationals trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

Agents took the subjects into custody and transported them to a nearby station for processing.

Two suspects have also been charged with smuggling. They will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Around this time, the Coast Guard received a conflicting, anonymous report of a second suspected panga. 

However, upon further investigation, they discovered the call was a false report by the smuggling operation designed to distract law enforcement, officials say. They were concerned that misleading calls like this potentially endanger the boating public by diverting Coast Guard assets.

If you have information about maritime smuggling or suspicious activity along the coast, authorities ask that you call the Joint Harbor Operations Center at 1-800-854-9834.

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