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Drug Smugglers Arrested off the Coast of Malibu

The panga boat was towed to Marina del Rey late Tuesday night.

Three suspected marijuana smugglers from Mexico were being held today following their arrests at the conclusion of an ocean pursuit off the coast of Malibu, authorities said.

Los Angeles County lifeguards notified the sheriff's Malibu/Lost Hills Station around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday that they had spotted a suspicious boat with possible contraband aboard about 50 feet off Latigo Beach, said sheriff's Sgt. Stephanie Shrout.

Deputies confirmed it was a panga boat and called the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which deployed its air and marine unit and arrested three men, Shrout said.

Virginia Kice of U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement said the Mexican nationals were arrested following an ocean pursuit that ended about 11 nautical miles southwest of Point Dume. The suspects, whose names were not immediately released, were being presented for prosecution on federal drug smuggling charges, Kice said.

"The panga was being used to smuggle marijuana," Kice said in a statement this morning. "Shortly before the pursuit ensued, the panga's occupants began tossing bales of marijuana overboard. So far, the U.S. Coast Guard has recovered more than 80 bales of marijuana, and the search is ongoing at this time."

Each bale weighs about 20 pounds, Kice said. The incident was the fourth maritime smuggling interdiction off the Los Angeles coast since Saturday, all of them involving loads of marijuana, Kice said.

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