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16 detained near La Jolla in apparent maritime human-smuggling attempt

The Scripps Pier in La Jolla
On June 3, Border Patrol agents found and detained 12 men and four women, all Mexican nationals, who apparently had been dropped off in the water near Scripps Pier in La Jolla and made their way to shore.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Thursday morning incident came amid rise in maritime smuggling attempts and hours after federal officials warned migrants against dangerous crossings

Federal agents investigating an apparent human-smuggling attempt June 3 off the coast of San Diego detained 16 people who had illegally crossed into the United States from Baja California in a fishing boat.

The early-morning incident was the region’s latest maritime smuggling attempt, which increased dramatically in recent months and claimed at least four lives. It came just hours after federal officials used the indictment of two suspected smugglers and a subsequent news conference to warn migrants to reconsider such dangerous crossings.

The June 3 incident began shortly after 1:30 a.m. when personnel from the Port of San Diego Joint Harbor Operations Center alerted a Coast Guard vessel to the presence of a panga in ocean waters near the international border.

Personnel from the Coast Guard vessel later located the panga about 15 miles west of Sunset Cliffs, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection public affairs.

About 4:30 a.m., Border Patrol agents found and detained 12 men and four women, all Mexican nationals, who apparently had been dropped off in the water near Scripps Pier in La Jolla and made their way to shore.

All members of the traveling group were in the United States illegally, Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Jackie Wasiluk said.

On Sunday, a Coast Guard vessel intercepted a smuggling boat with 17 people on board. Last month, three people died and more than two dozen others were injured when an overloaded boat crashed into a reef and broke apart in rough water off Point Loma. Another immigrant died a few weeks later when a smuggling vessel capsized off La Jolla.

— San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Alex Riggins contributed to this report.