In the first incident, the Coast Guard observed a Baja boat cross from Mexican waters into the United States and then pull up to a boat ramp in Pepper Park Marina in San Diego Bay about noon, according to an affidavit.
A marine interdiction agent with Customs and Border Protection Marine went to the park and saw two men put the boat onto a trailer attached to a Dodge 2500 pickup, the court document said.
The agent asked the men about the make and model of the boat, and neither could answer the question, the affidavit said. The men said they had been fishing for sculpin around the Coronado Islands off the Mexico coast, although the fishing gear on the boat did not appear appropriate for such a venture, the agent noted. The agent also noticed that the boat’s floor appeared to have been recently fixed and painted.
The agent left the two but, with help from other agents, discreetly followed them north onto Interstate 5. When the boat and truck passed the San Clemente Border Patrol checkpoint, a Border Patrol agent pulled behind them in a marked vehicle. The driver apparently saw the vehicle and acted nervous, so the agent pulled over the pickup, the affidavit said.
A drug dog detected the odor of narcotics and the boat was taken for X-ray to the San Clemente Border Patrol station. In the floor was 495 bundles of marijuana, weighing about 1,313 pounds.
A records check showed the Dodge was a rental and had crossed into Mexico two days prior, the document said.
One of the men told agents that he and his father were each offered about $4,000 to transport the drugs from Ensenada to Los Angeles, according to the affidavit.
The following day, Coast Guard officers were conducting checks at Dana Landing in Mission Beach about 10:30 a.m. when they noticed a white Baja boat motor toward the ramp. A white Dodge pickup was reversing toward the boat to tow it out of the water onto a trailer.
Once the boat was out of the water, the officers boarded for a routine inspection.
The boat’s captain acted nervous when answering questions, and officers said his story about returning from a fishing trip wasn’t matching up, according to the affidavit. The fishing rods didn’t appear to have been used and the fish appeared old and from a store, the affidavit added.
The officers found a black backpack with several changes of clothing, and the boat’s only crewmember told officers that he tends to get wet when fishing and wanted dry clothes. But, the officers pointed out, he was wearing rain pants and a weatherproof jacket. “Is having that many clothes illegal?” the crewmember responded.
A records check showed the crewmember has a prior arrest on drug-smuggling charges, which increased suspicion.
A drug-dog and search of the boat revealed 284 packages of marijuana hidden under the center console of the boat, according to the court document. The load weighed about 1,474 pounds.
Both incidents ended in arrests. All four men have pleaded not guilty.