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Four Mexican nationals charged with smuggling drugs to Hollister Ranch Beach

Drugs seized from panga boat
Santa Barbara County Sheriff
Drugs seized from panga boat

GAVIOTA, Calif. - Four Mexican nationals accused of trying to smuggle more than 4,700 pounds of marijuana into the United States by boat face life in prison.

Federal authorities claim the four men, all from Sinaloa, Mexico, were spotted by a law enforcement airplane just before midnight on March 11, 2020 in an open-bowed fishing vessel which the criminal complaint refers to as a “panga boat.” Law enforcement suspected the boat was carrying drugs toward the Gaviota Coast.

About 1:15 a.m. on March 12, the boat landed at Hollister Ranch Beach. State, Federal and local law enforcement watched as 14 additional people on the beach helped unload about 200 bales of marijuana from the boat. Authorities also spotted two more people on a nearby hill who appeared to be look outs for the smugglers.

The bales of marijuana were carried and loaded into the back of multiple vehicles. About 3 a.m. authorities moved in and the group scattered in all directions. 21 people were arrested including the four men named in the indictment. They've been identified as Alejo Garcia-Moreno, 54; Benito Garcia-Moreno, 59, Alejo Garcia-Moreno’s brother; Mario Sainz-Aranzubia, 44, a cousin of Alejo and Benito Garcia-Moreno; and Benny Zazueta-Sainz, 28, Sainz-Aranzubia’s nephew.

All four men face a maximum sentence of life in prison and a minimum sentence of ten years in federal prison.

The U.S. Attorney's Office reported the other 17 people who were arrested that night were released.

Cannabis / Crime / Santa Barbara - South County / Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County
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C.J. Ward

C.J. Ward is the evening anchor for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and the station’s lead investigative reporter. To learn more about C.J., click here

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