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26 arrested in connection with 3 illegal immigrant smuggling attempts

October 18, 2010 |  6:03 pm

Federal authorities thwarted three maritime smuggling attempts over the weekend in San Diego County, arresting 24 suspected illegal immigrants and two suspected smugglers, and seizing two boats and more than $63,000 in smuggling proceeds.

Early Saturday, four people were arrested near Imperial Beach after being smuggled into the country on two personal watercraft, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. A few hours later, agents arrested 11 would-be immigrants at Torrey Pines State Beach. The panga-style boat they were in was stopped trying to escape, and two suspected smugglers were arrested.

On Sunday, agents foiled an attempt to smuggle nine people via a 40-foot sailboat into Mission Bay. Five of the immigrants were arrested in a hotel room, where the criminal profits were discovered.

The incidents mark the latest in a sharp surge of attempts to smuggle illegal immigrants into California by sea. The boats depart from small ports and beaches near Rosarito Beach and head north.

Federal authorities have arrested 867 illegal immigrants in the last year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

-- Richard Marosi in San Diego