MONTEREY (BCN) — Six men were sentenced to two years in prison for smuggling 2,800 pounds of marijuana in a boat that landed off of the coast in Big Sur earlier this year, the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday.
The men were identified as Alejandro Acosta Jr., 26, and Aaron Quintero, 23, both of Yuma, Arizona, and Jesus Israelas Carrion Corrales, 51, Gonzalo Ruiz Quezara, 28, Victor Sandoval, 41, and Jose Burgueno Sanchez, 39, of Mexico.
They all pleaded no contest to charges of transporting marijuana, possessing marijuana and conspiracy that stem from the discovery of a Panga boat that landed near Mill Creek in Big Sur during the early morning of June 12, prosecutors said.
A Panga boat is an open vessel commonly used for fishing and equipped with outboard motors.
The U.S. Coast Guard first spotted the 30-foot-long boat by radar and initiated a ground response as it sped toward the Big Sur coast, according to prosecutors.
The boat had an extra large fuel bladder and two large outboard motors, district attorney’s officials said.
Personnel from San Luis Obispo County, Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol and state Department of Fish and Wildlife responded to the scene.
Federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Bureau of Land Management also responded.
The first arriving officers saw almost half of the 111 bales of marijuana unloaded from the boat, but found nobody in the area, prosecutors said.
A GPS device from the boat was found at a nearby campsite with a view of the beach and state Highway 1, according to prosecutors.
The device had directions originating from Ensenada, Mexico three days earlier, prosecutors said.
Officers stopped a van with four men who were wet and sandy from the waist down and had a tent similar to the one found at the campsite, according to prosecutors.
Also in the vehicle were two radios tuned to the same channel as the one on the boat, prosecutors said.
Five other men also found wet and sandy from the waist down were linked with the van and boat, according to prosecutors.
In all, nine men were taken into custody that day but soon after two posted bail and a third had pleaded guilty to the same charges faced by the six men who were sentenced, prosecutors said.
DEA investigators suspect the Panga boats are being paid for and managed by the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, according to prosecutors.
Last year, there were 10 Panga boats that landed along the Central Coast and there was between $2 million and $6 million worth of marijuana on each vessel, prosecutors said.