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Eight arrested in panga boat bust 

Panga Boat

File photo of a panga booat previously seized by authorities.

An early morning traffic stop leads San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s deputies to a panga boat and several suspects.

Early Thanksgiving Day morning at about 3:30 a.m. sheriff’s deputies saw a white Dodge full-size panel van in the San Simeon area, which has been the location of maritime smuggling activity. The deputies followed the vehicle and upon observing a vehicle code violation they stopped it on Highway One at Vista Del Mar in San Simeon.

Upon approaching the panel van the deputies saw that it contained between 60 and 90 large bales of marijuana. The amount of marijuana is estimated to be between 2,000 and 3,000 lbs. based on the size of the bales. The driver of the van was identified as Rafael Rebolledo and he was arrested at the scene for conspiracy and transportation of marijuana.

Sheriff’s narcotics detectives were called out and began their investigation, which included a search of the coastline from San Simeon north to the Monterey County line. Sheriff’s detectives located a 35 foot panga boat with three 225 HP Yamaha outboard engines and with approximately 300 gallons of gasoline on board, abandoned on the beach.

Sheriff’s detectives then began a search of the immediate area near the landing site for any suspects that may have still been in the area and at approximately 8:30 a.m. they located and arrested five male subjects connected with the marijuana offload operation, near the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse.

Upon locating the panga Boat the Sheriff’s Office alerted the Monterey and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Offices to be on the lookout for maritime smuggling activity in their jurisdictions. Shortly afterwards the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office reported that their deputies patrolling the Big Sur area located and stopped a white Ford panel van on Highway One, south of Carmel. This van also contained between 60 and 90 bales of marijuana. The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office arrested the occupants of the van and seized the bales of marijuana.

Upon processing the crime scene members of the sheriff’s dive team were able to remove the panga boat and the gasoline that it contained, from the beach, and drive the boat under its own power to Morro Bay. The Dodge van containing the marijuana bales has been transported to sheriff’s headquarters where the sheriff’s crime lab will process it and the bales of marijuana for evidence.

Several suspects have been arrested for violations of California Penal Code section 182 – Conspiracy and California Health and Safety Code section 11360 – Importation/Transportation of Marijuana. The investigation by Sheriff’s detectives into this maritime smuggling operation is continuing.

Suspects arrested

  • Rafael Rebolledo, 41, Lynwood, Calif.
  • Sergio Cortes, 19, Moreno Valley, Calif.
  • Lucio Laureano-Atanocio, 26, Gilroy, Calif.
  • Ricardo J. Melgar, 23, Gilroy, Calif.
  • Filberto O. Vasquez, 24, unknown city of residence
  • Antonio Palomares, 25, unknown city of residence
  • Male juvenile, 17, Moreno Valley, Calif.
  • Male juvenile, 17, Moreno Valley, Calif.
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About the author: News Staff

News staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote and edited this story from local contributors and press releases. Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Connect with him on , Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or follow his blog. He can be reached at scott@pasoroblesdailynews.com.

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