An empty panga boat was discovered Thursday morning on the beach at the entrance to Ballona Creek near Marina del Rey, sheriff's deputies said.
Deputies spotted the panga, a small Mexican fishing boat with an outboard motor, about 7:30 a.m. in the surf at the north end of Dockweiler Beach, deputies said. Deputies found gasoline canisters, but no drugs or people.
Smugglers have utilized pangas to bring marijuana and people into Southern California from Mexico in the last couple of years as land borders become tighter.
Most recently, U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection authorities followed a panga loaded with marijuana to Palos Verdes Estates, where three men were arrested Oct. 30.
In 2012, federal officials have investigated 210 events of human or drug smuggling aboard pangas from San Diego to San Luis Obispo. A variety of police agencies have made 448 arrests and seized more than 102,000 pounds of marijuana.
- Larry Altman