Posted: July 15, 2013 | By: Mark Potter [NBC News]
SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. -- Standing on a bluff along the central California coast, rancher Paul Van Leer pointed to the beach near his property where a Mexican smuggling boat, known as a panga, came ashore in May loaded with marijuana.
“The concern for me is that you’re bringing in a criminal element here that previously was never here before,” he said. “The criminal element is coming from Mexico in the boats and then they hire people from L.A. to transport the drugs once they land on the beach.”
The rancher's safety concerns reflect a trend noticed by federal and local law enforcement officials -- that Mexican maritime smugglers are bringing their illicit cargo farther and farther north along the California coast.
“We anticipate that trend to increase, because right now is a [Mexican] marijuana harvest, so we expect to have more vessels coming up,” said Claude Arnold, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations.
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