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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Abandoned Craft Sparks Area Smuggling Concerns

• Drugs and Human Trafficking

BY ANNE SOBLE

There were echoes of Malibu’s past history as an isolated place to come ashore—whether at the aptly named Pirates Cove with one’s ill-gained booty, or the other spots where 1920s rum runners and opium couriers kept the Southland supplied—when authorities discovered an abandoned fishing boat in the ocean off Deer Creek Road early last Wednesday.
Local, state and federal agencies are expressing concern that the 32-foot craft with two engines, often called a panga, was being used to bring in illegal drugs, undocumented immigrants, or even terrorists.
All three possibilities whetted the interest of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security division, which is conducting a local investigation with Ventura County and state authorities.
Numerous fuel canisters were found on the open-hulled vessel named La Conchita, the little shell, as well as life preservers, backpacks, clothing and other supplies.
Although the official consensus has always been that most smuggling operatives don’t travel as far north as County Line in Malibu; last year, a boat carrying drugs was intercepted off the Santa Barbara coast.
Increased surveillance of the Southern California coastline might be prompting smugglers to consider seeking alternatives.
Authorities ask anyone who saw anything suspicious in the Deer Creek area late Tuesday night or early Wednesday to relay it to 911 or 1-866-DHS-2ICE (Homeland Security).
It’s hoped that passing motorists noticed people who were disembarking the boat, carrying bundles, and getting into vehicles.

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