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Three Drug Boat Smugglers Arrested

The pot was valued at more than $1 million.

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 about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday that they had spotted a suspicious boat 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, adding that U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles was "very aggressive" and "proactive" in prosecuting  maritime smugglers.

"The panga was being used to smuggle marijuana," Kice said "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."

The pot was valued at more than $1 million.

Each pot 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.

Kice urged coastal residents to report anything suspicious.

"If you see something suspicious, say something," she said, adding that associates of smugglers sometimes wait on beaches, in parking lots or residential areas for hours for boats to arrive.

Since Oct. 1, 2011, authorities in Los Angeles County have interdicted 10 smuggling operations, apprehended 51 people and seized 11,345 pounds of marijuana, according to ICE.

In Orange County, eight maritime smuggling operations were thwarted and 2,674 pounds of pot seized.

In San Diego County, 49 vessels were stopped, nearly 200 people were apprehended and 1,706 pounds of pot seized. Also seized were 133 pounds of methamphetamine and cocaine.

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