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Homeland Security partnering with Santa Barbara County in panga boat investigation

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office

Local and Federal authorities are investigating a drug-running boat found on a Central Coast beach Monday morning. 

A resident walking his dog found the 30-foot boat in Gaviota State Park. Officials say the twin-engine panga boat was abandoned on San Onofre Beach with a bale of marijuana in the boat, and another package nearby.

Two men found near the boat were booked into county jail.

Sheriff Spokesperson Kelly Hoover said Homeland Security Investigations has the boat and is partnering with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office in the investigation.

"There was definitely a period of time when we we're seeing a lot of panga boats on the Santa Barbara County coastline, and we definitely have seen less recently," said Hoover.

Efforts to combat maritime smuggling on the Central Coast have increased in recent years. The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors approved nearly half a million dollars in federal grant money to fight panga boats last year.

Hoover said panga boats are typically used to smuggle drugs and people into California.

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