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The Catalina Islander
Avalon, California
August 31, 2012     The Catalina Islander
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August 31, 2012

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Seven individuals, three US.citizens, were charged after federal agents thwarted an attempt to smugglie more than a ton of marijuana off Ca,talina Island on Wednesday Aug. 23. Photo courtesy Immigration and Customs Enforcement. . Bust From page 1 the suspects probably felt safer in custody than they would have dealing with their narcotic smug- gling associates in Mexico. They were ultimately convicted and each sentenced to l0 years in citizens. The most recent case federal prison. The smugglers in began unfolding early Wednes- that case told the court that their day, Aug. 22, when a marine crew families had been threatened by from an interceptor boat from U.S. Mexican drug traffickers. Customs and Border Protection's Last week's case, however, ap- Office of Air and Marine spotted a pears to be different in that three - sailboat off Catalina Island. of the suspects were American The crew of the sailboat sig- naled by flashing a light in the di- rection of the Air and Marine ves- sel, and the federal agents boarded _ the sailboat. On board the sailboat, the agents discovered three persons, as well as a loaded shotgun, a .40 cal- iber pistol and night vision equip- ment. Shortly after the encounter, Air and Marine launched a Black- hawkzhelicopter from San Diego to patrol the area, suspecting that the sailboat may have been involved with another vessel attempting to transfer illegal contraband from boat to boat. At about 5:45 a.m., the agents in the Blackhawk observed a pan- ga carrying four individuals and loaded with bales of possible con: traband heading northeast, about 5 nautical miles from the location where the sailboat had been in-. tercepted. A short time later, the individuals on the panga changed course and began tossing bales overboard. Subsequently, a second Air and Marine crew intercepted the panga, and after a brief chase, stopped the vessel. G0000rnlcL Siccce 1929 CALL TODAY AND LET DEWEY PEST CONTROL TAKE CARE OF YOUR PEST CONTROL NEEDS! 310.328.0553 San Pedro iaa Offers Jecial Islander Rates Located within walking distance of the new Catalina Express Terminal in San Pedro and less than one mile from the San Pedro DI4V Office. $79/night" (Sun-Wed) $89/night* (Thu-Sat) Choice of l Kin9 bed or 2 Queens Free.Parkin 8 Free Local Calls. Refrigerator Free WiFi Smoke Free * Daily Newspaper Pool/lacuzzi * Pillow Top * Free Continental Free Cable Mattress Breakfast *Rate is beed on double occupancy and availability. Please make reservations in advance with the hotel directly. Must show proof of Island residency Agents recovered 130 packag- es of marijuana, weighing m6re than 2,300 pounds, with an esti- mated street value of more than $1 million. "We are beginning to see this as a more common tactic: smugglers attempting to move contraband from open hull panga boats to recreational vessels, such as this sailboat," said Keley Hill, director of Marine Operations for Customs and Border Protection in San Diego. "The smugglers think that when the recreational vessel moves in to shore, it will blend in with legitimate boating traf- fic off of the Southern California coastline and make it much more difficult for us to detect illegal activity." OAM agenls seized the panga and the sailboat, as well as the marijuana, and turned the seven suspects over to the Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force, spearheaded by U.S. Im- migration and Customs Enforce- ment's Homeland Security Inves- tigations. "The surge in maritime smug- gling activity here in Southern Californiarepresents both a secu- rity and a public safety threat and we are working closely with CBP and our other law enforcement partners to disrupt these schemes and bring those responsible to jus- tice," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los An- geles. "These latest arrests and the ensuing prosecution sentence should send a strong signal about the consequences facing those involved in this dangerous enter- prise.'" The suspects found aboard the sailboat were: Jeremy Alan Bris- lin, 40, of Huntington Beach; Ter- rance Joseph Hirchag, 46, of San Clemente and Andrew" Matthew Empson, 49, of Long Beach. The suspects arrested follow- ing the interdiction of the panga were: Carlos Santana-Diaz, 36, of Sonora, Mexico; Ramon Zuniga- Juarez, 20, of Sinaloa, Mexico; Joel Amabisca-Arillano; 34, of Sonora, Mexico and Jesus Beltran- Zuniga, 18, of Tijuana, Mexico. Catalina Islander editor Dennis Kaiser contributed to the story. "THE WRITE STUFF" Pre you a writer, or would like to be one for the Catalina Islander?. The paper is seeking to expand its editorial horizons. New reporters and guest columnists are welcome. For more infor- maon, contact the editor at 10 ! Friday, August 31, 2012 TIlE CATALINA ISLANDER