Police nab Mexican drug boat north of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES Tue Jan 31, 2012 7:29pm EST

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Police seized a motorboat packed with more than a ton of marijuana north of Los Angeles and arrested three Mexican men, the latest seizure as traffickers try to beat tougher border security by taking to the waves, authorities said on Tuesday.

U.S. Border Patrol agents intercepted the open-topped "panga" style vessel packed with plastic-wrapped bundles of marijuana at Point Dume State Beach in Los Angeles County on Saturday, the U.S. Border Patrol said in a news release.

The three men on board the boat had entered the United States illegally and were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

As security has tightened in recent years along the United States' porous border with Mexico, trafficking organizations have increasingly taken to smuggling drugs and illegal immigrants by sea to the Los Angeles area.

In the 12 months to the end of September 2011, authorities recorded 26 maritime smuggling incidents in the greater Los Angeles area, including seven in Ventura County. Since then, there have been 14 incidents including three in Ventura County and one in Santa Barbara County.

U.S. authorities have in recent months ramped up efforts to target sea-borne smugglers taking the longer route to the Los Angeles area, expanding the use of marine patrols, land-based surveillance, and cooperation with their Mexican counterparts.

The seizure on Saturday followed a tip from the California National Guard.

(Reporting By Tim Gaynor; Editing by Greg McCune)

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