California State Parks assisted with this investigation
“State Parks rangers and lifeguards work to keep park-goers safe and along the coast that does include keeping a watchful eye out for criminal activity approaching the shore. We thank them for working to keep the public safe from harm.” – CSLEA President Alan Barcelona
LOS ANGELES – On December 18, 2023, Jorge Muñoz-Muñoz, 27, of Ensenada, Mexico was sentenced to 110 months in federal prison for trafficking 11 undocumented individuals, as well as 45 pounds of methamphetamine, on a panga boat that landed on a Santa Barbara County beach.
At the conclusion of a five-day trial in December 2022, a federal jury found Muñoz-Muñoz guilty of one count of conspiracy to bring aliens into the United States, 11 counts of alien smuggling, 11 counts of alien smuggling for private financial gain, one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, one count of conspiracy to import methamphetamine, and one count of importation of methamphetamine.
On the morning of September 27, 2021, law enforcement sighted a panga boat adrift off the coast of Santa Barbara County. The vessel, which was having engine trouble, ultimately made landfall at Arroyo Quemada Beach, approximately 25 miles west of Santa Barbara.
An investigation revealed that there were 15 people on the boat, including several crewmembers. Two black bags that contained a total of 40 vacuum-sealed and plastic wrapped bindles, totaling approximately 45 pounds of methamphetamine, were thrown off the boat by passengers at Muñoz-Muñoz’s direction and later were recovered by law enforcement.
Authorities also later confirmed that all occupants of the boat were undocumented aliens. Based on interviews with the passengers, it was determined that the passengers arrived at a beach in Ensenada, Mexico to board a panga that would smuggle them into the United States for a price of approximately $15,000 each.
On July 6, Judge Fischer ordered Muñoz-Muñoz acquitted of one count of aiding and assisting an alien convicted of an aggravated felony to enter the United States.
Muñoz-Muñoz has been in federal custody since his arrest in September 2021.
Roel Aranzubia-Álvarez, 45, of Sinaloa, Mexico, the panga boat’s captain, was convicted at trial with Muñoz-Muñoz of alien smuggling charges in this case and was sentenced to five years in federal prison.
Another defendant and panga boat crewmember, Caín Camargo-López, 46, of Sinaloa, Mexico, pleaded guilty in April 2022 to two counts of alien smuggling and one count of conspiring to allow an alien convicted to aggravated felonies to enter the United States. On August 7, Camargo-López was sentenced to five years in federal prison.
Homeland Security Investigations investigated this matter. United States Customs and Border Protection, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, and the California Department of Parks and Recreation provided substantial assistance.