Use of Personal Watercraft a New Trend for Criminal Smugglers

With the increase of agents across the border, the game of cat and mouse has shifted from land to the sea as agents monitor the coast in search of illegal smugglers.

According to CBP, maritime smugglers are now using personal watercrafts, similar to Sea-Doos, to bring people and drugs across the border.

CBP sent NBC 7 a photo of the personal watercraft used Wednesdayt night at Silver Strand State Beach, where one suspected smuggler was arrested.

Another photo shows a personal watercraft last week in the same location.

"It easily could be several times a week, “said Agent Jerry Conlin with U.S. Customs and Border Protection San Diego Sector. “The whole journey could take 20 minutes or less.  By the time they come across they drop off and then they go back. So to actually apprehend the operator is very challenging,” he added.

CBP says the personal watercraft can reach up to 55 mph and travel up to two miles off the coast. Agents say smugglers drop off their passengers in the middle of the night, who then attempt to swim to shore.

“They're really putting their lives in these smugglers' hands, “ said Conlin.

NBC 7 has learned smugglers can charge up to $10,000 per trip.

“Anyone that's apprehended in the maritime domain, they're going to get deported and if they come back through the water then they will face jail time, “ added Conlin.

Contact Us