February 15, 2013 | 9:11am
Eighty-five miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border in the wee hours of Feb. 4, men wearing black clothes in a 30-foot panga boat delivered 1,200 pounds of marijuana to the shore at Crystal Cove in Laguna Beach, according to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) report.
Using thermal imaging equipment, ICE agents--who know the area is a hotspot for smugglers--watched a sports utility vehicle pull off Pacific Coast Highway in the area for the delivery.
The men fled into a tunnel or the hillside when approached by federal agents assigned to a border patrol task force.
Within 90 minutes the suspects were captured and transported to the Border Patrol Station in San Clemente for processing, according to an ICE report.
During interviews, one of the suspects claimed he entered the United States to watch the Super Bowl and to party with pot, beer and women--not to smuggle narcotics.
Federal prosecutors are now pursuing drug transportation charges against Fernando Valenzuela-Lopez, Victor Cervantes-Lopez, Francisco Chavez, Kevin A. Gilbert, Marcus Anthony Gilbert, Martin Gomez-Arreola and Walter Solis-Maldonado.
All the defendants are U.S. citizens except for Solis-Maldonado, Cervantes-Lopez and Valenzuela-Lopez.
Though a judge has not yet been selected for the case, a hearing is expected in March at the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana.