Authorities arrest 18 people from suspected smuggling boats

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Eight of the 18 total people arrested after Border Patrol and Coast Guard stopped two suspected smuggling boats off the coast of San Diego.

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SAN DIEGO — U.S. Border Patrol stopped two different boats off the coast of San Diego early Thursday morning, arresting 18 people suspected of entering the U.S. illegally.

Officials say they spotted the first boat entering U.S. waters around 1:20 a.m. Agents alerted U.S. Coast Guard, and the two agencies worked together to stop the vessel a short time later. Eight people were found on board — seven men and a woman — and were transferred to USBP agents on shore.

All eight admitted they were Mexican citizens who crossed into America illegally, Border Patrol said. Agents determined one of the men was a human smuggler, and he now faces criminal charges, USBP said. The others were taken to a Border Patrol station nearby and will eventually face deportation, officials said.

The second boat was spotted in U.S. waters around 3:45 a.m. Border Patrol agents spotted a panga — low-lying fishing boats with outboard motors that are frequently used for smuggling — about six miles off the coast of Point Loma. A Coast Guard cutter caught up to the panga by 5 a.m. and officers found 10 people on board.

Nine of the people aboard the boat were Mexican nationals and one was from Guatemala, USBP said. All admitted entering the U.S. illegally and were taken to a nearby station to be processed, according to agents. Two of the men were identified as smugglers and will face criminal charges.

All 18 people were in Department of Homeland Security custody as of Thursday evening.

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