For drug runners hoping to go about their business undetected, it’s never good news when the boat they’re using runs aground. That problem is complicated considerably when the smuggling vessel not only becomes unseaworthy, but does so on property overseen by the U.S. Air Force.
That was the situation this week when Air Force officers investigating the appearance of a 20-foot aluminum boat on a Southern California beach also found about $1 million worth of marijuana.
Col. Nina M. Armagno, commander of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, described the situation Thursday during a press conference covered by the Santa Maria Times.
“What it looks like to me are large bags, kind of like dark-colored trash bags, wrapped up and stacked, and actually they have been covered in what looks like an attempt to camouflage them with brush,” Armagno said. “We’re going to be extremely vigilant of the area until it’s cleaned up and secured. ... We have determined there is no threat to the base and to the local community.”
Drug smuggling has been on the rise in Southern California in part because of a security crackdown on the Mexico-U.S. border. The New York Times reported in December that activity in the area has skyrocketed in recent years with marijuana seizures involving maritime smugglers rising fourfold between 2011 and 2012.
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It’s comparatively common for boats -- fitted with extra enginea and worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each -- to be found stocked with drugs along the coast.
“They ended up just abandoning it,” Santa Barbara County Sherriff Bill Brown told the Times about one such boat. “It shows the amount of money they are making bringing drugs up here.”
Armagno’s comments at the press conference Thursday are in the video below.