20 Arrested in Sea-Bound Human Smuggling Attempt

20 suspects were taken from a 30-foot-panga off the coast of Oceanside

Border agents thwarted a human smuggling operation off the coast of San Diego County early Tuesday, arresting 20 people trying to enter the country illegally, authorities say.

A 30-foot panga boat was first spotted around 1 a.m. Tuesday about 30 miles off Del Mar. Airborne crews with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air and Marine (OAM) tracked the panga and alerted sea-bound agents.

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About an hour and a half later, two OAM boats intercepted the panga about 12 miles west of Oceanside.

The boat and its 20 passengers – 17 men and two women – were taken to Oceanside Harbor and turned over to U.S. Border Patrol for processing.

Most were Mexican nationals, except two men from Guatemala and one man from El Salvador. The passengers ranged in age from 20 to 51 years old.

The OAM says two men will be prosecuted for human smuggling.

On Monday, law enforcement launched a search for about 20 people who scattered when their panga boat came ashore at Mission Beach.

Witnesses caught the escape on camera, and Border Patorl agents later arrested at least seven suspected undocumented immigrants.

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