‘Don’t trust smugglers’: Feds warn of deadly recent operations

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SAN DIEGO — Federal authorities held a news conference in San Diego Wednesday to share “developments in human smuggling cases” and to make a “collective plea” to people considering coming into the country illegally: “Don’t trust human smugglers.”

The briefing came in the wake of several high-profile smuggling incidents at sea in the San Diego area, including the boat that was carrying nearly three dozen people when it crashed into rocks off the coast of Point Loma in May, killing three passengers.

Later that month, 23 people were taken into custody from another vessel that was stopped by Border Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard near Sunset Cliffs. And days later, one person died and 10 others were pulled from rough surf when yet another smuggling boat ran into trouble near La Jolla.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of maritime smuggling attempts recently,” Chief Border Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke said last month. “All of these illegal crossings at sea are inherently dangerous, and we have seen too many turn from risky to tragic as smugglers sacrifice the safety of those on board for the sake of profits.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been dedicating extra resources to San Diego’s coastline in recent months in an attempt to stymie the crossings.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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