Zodiac Smuggler

At about 4:15 a.m. on Tuesday, September 15, U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted a boat off the coast of Imperial Beach carrying ten duffel bags stuffed with marijuana. According to Customs spokesperson Jackie Dizdull, “A CBP marine interdiction vessel on routine patrol encountered a boat running without lights about one mile off of the Imperial Beach coast, just south of the pier.”

Because of the suspicious behavior, the interdiction vessel (with three agents aboard) stopped the nine-foot rigid-hull inflatable Zodiac. Besides the two persons onboard (a 19-year-old male resident of El Cajon and U.S. citizen, and a 35-year-old Mexican male), agents saw ten duffel bags on the boat’s deck.

Upon further inspection at the Harbor Island public dock, CBP officials discovered that the ten duffel bags were filled with bundles of marijuana — a reported 329 pounds, worth an estimated $200,000. The Mexican citizen had no legal documents to enter the United States. CBP seized the boat and marijuana and turned over custody of the two persons to the San Diego High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Air and Marine Task Force, led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

When asked if the recent spate of drug smugglers intercepted off the Imperial Beach coast was due to a trend of opportunists or part of something bigger, Dizdull replied, “We do find in our investigations that most are linked to narcotic-smuggling organizations. Gone are the days of the mom-and-pop drug smugglers.”

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