The men sitting on a white 26-foot McGregor sailboat in the Pacific Ocean 15 miles off Dana Point at about 3 a.m. on March 31 had two reasons for panic.
Sure, their stranded boat had been slowly taking on water for six hours.
But there was another problem: They didn’t want a summoned tow boat captain with water draining equipment to step on their vessel and see the cargo: Nearly 2,000 pounds of marijuana, according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security task force report.
James Leemon Marshall III and Andres Alfredo Gutierrez initially declined Captain Scott McClung’s suggestion that he board and pump out the water, later changed their minds when their efforts failed and hoped the visitor’s silence meant he didn’t recognize the pot.
McClung played dumb, began towing the boat to Dana Point Harbor and called his wife, who contacted law enforcement.
About 10 miles from the harbor, they were intercepted by a two-man Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) boat team, placed under arrest and eventually turned over to U.S. Border Patrol officials in San Clemente.
Federal agents say they found bales of marijuana wrapped in foil and plastic.
Marshall, who was born in 1987, and Gutierrez, who was born in 1992, now face potential maximum sentences of more than 10 years in prison if convicted by prosecutors of drug trafficking charges.
Held in pretrial custody as “serious flight risks,” both men are scheduled for arraignment on May 6 inside Orange County’s Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; won inclusion in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting for his coverage of a white supremacist’s senseless murder of a beloved Vietnamese refugee; launched multi-year probes that resulted in the FBI arrests and convictions of the top three ranking members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; and gained praise from New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.