U.S. Border Patrol Agents recovered hundreds of bales of marijuana Sunday with a street value of more than $3 million off the Orange County coast, a sheriff's lieutenant said.
The bales were found floating by a boater about noon Sunday, approximately 13 miles off Dana Point, Orange County Sheriff's Department Lt. Joe Balicki said.
"It kind of makes you wonder how it got there," Balicki said. "We didn't have any reports of vessels in distress."
The 160 bales weighed about 7,000 to 8,000 pounds, Balicki said.
Seizing the narcotics is the result of the joint effort between federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities working within one regional coordinating group to stop illegal maritime activity along the Southern California coastline, said Jackie Wasiluk, spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Shortly before noon Sunday, maritime law enforcement authorities received a tip about suspicious bales floating in the water.
Jerry Conlin, a spokesperson for the U.S. Border Patrol, told The Huffington Post that the discovery was "not normal" because officials didn't see a boat or high-speed chase near the abandoned bales.
"To find that much out there floating in the water is not normal," said Conlin. "There have been no arrests made at this moment, and there's no vessel that's been seized. It is an ongoing investigation."
Conlin, who has been working for the Border Patrol for seven years, says he's never seen a haul like this. The U.S. Border Patrol estimates that the discovered marijuana is worth $4.03 million.
The article in the Huffington Post also reports: "Altogether, the Coastguard, ICE, local harbor patrols, Border Patrol and any other law enforcement agency in the maritime realm has seen a recent increase in ocean drug smuggling. According to the U.S. Border Patrol, combined figures from all of these agencies show that in 2008, there were a total of 45 known smuggling events and 203 apprehensions related to maritime narcotics smuggling. In 2011, those figured jumped to 183 events and 631 apprehensions."
Orange County resident Patty Fields, who sent Patch photos said she just happened to be at the harbor around the same time as the discovery.
"I couldn't believe it, we were headed out on a boat and someone said, 'wow, look at that, so I turned and starting taking photos," she said.
The tip was called in to the regional maritime coordinating group. If you see something similarly suspicious, call (310) 521-3801.