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Panga intercepted near Rancho Palos Verdes; 25 arrested

December 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Twenty-five people were arrested after authorities intercepted a panga off the coast of Rancho Palos Verdes on Monday.

Pangas are open hull fishing boats often used for smuggling drugs or people from Mexico.

Deputies were called to the Abalone Cove area at 5:45 a.m. because a suspected smuggling boat was found. Authorities say the suspected illegal immigrants tried to hide, but 25 undocumented people -- 19 men and six women -- were taken into custody by 8:30 a.m.

Drivers in two vans were also detained. Authorities believe the vans were waiting to pick up the people once they got off the boat.

An investigation is under way. According to Homeland Security, no narcotics were found on the boat. Officials are still trying to figure out where the panga originated from.

Homeland Security says there has been an increase in human trafficking and drug smuggling boats, and as security on the California coast get tighter, the smugglers attempt to move further up the coast. Last year, there were more than 200 smuggling boats intercepted. In just the past two months, there have been 44 incidents.

Earlier this month, U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III was killed in a confrontation with suspected drug smugglers in a panga off Santa Cruz Island.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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