In the predawn hours of Thanksgiving Day, a group of men was carrying three tons of marijuana off a boat along the Central California coast.
Once the cargo was loaded into vans -- authorities estimated the marijuana arrived in 180 bales weighing up to 6,000 pounds -- it headed off to its destinations.
Only the shipments never made it.
About 3:30 a.m., a San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputy pulled over a white panel van on Highway 1 and found about 90 bales of marijuana in the back, officials said. The deputy called in drug detectives, who searched the coast and found five men and a 35-foot panga boat on the beach at the Monterey County line.
The panga boat had 300 gallons of spare gasoline on board.
Investigators alerted deputies in neighboring Santa Barbara and Monterey counties to be on the lookout for drug traffickers, and a second white panel van was found on the highway south of Carmel. That van had between 60 and 90 bales of marijuana in it, San Luis Obispo county officials say.
Authorities arrested five men between 19 and 41 years old and two 17-year-old boys. All were booked on suspicion of conspiracy to import marijuana.
The investigation into where the drugs were from and where they were headed is ongoing.
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