Byline: Taylor Hill
DANA POINT — Two weeks following the unlikely appearance of more than 8,000 pounds of marijuana floating off Dana Point’s coast, no arrests have been made and no vessels have been identified in the mysterious incident.
On May 21, Deputy Jim Slikker of the Orange County Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol in Dana Point responded to a call around noon from a recreational boater 14 miles offshore, reporting numerous floating objects in the water. Upon arrival, Slikker found 180 bales of marijuana scattered across the area and called for backup from Border Patrol officers and other law enforcement authorities.
Vessels from federal and local agencies spent most of the day loading up and offloading 180 bales — more than 4 tons — of marijuana, to be delivered to a secure Border Patrol facility. Border Patrol spokesman Jerry Conlin estimated the street value of the find at more than $4 million.
Orange County Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol Harbormaster Lt. Tom Slayton said that there was no debris and no wreckage, and there were no clues at the time of the call as to how the bales ended up in the water.
Despite the strange discovery of the marijuana in broad daylight, the bales appeared to be prepared for water immersion, as each was packaged in waterproof material, with flotation devices built into them to keep them on the surface.
Slayton said finding floating bales of marijuana in the water has become more common for authorities who work to deter smuggling from Mexico to the United States, as drug cartels have been known to drop contraband in the water before signaling another boat to pick up the load.
But both Slayton and Border Patrol spokesman Conlin had not seen a haul of this size.
“I’ve never seen this volume of contraband being dumped, and it is very strange,” Slayton said. “Where did it come from? It would take a big boat to haul it — and a big boat to collect it.”
While federal, state and local law enforcement authorities worked together on the initial case, the investigation has been turned over to the Border Patrol, and it was ongoing at press time.