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3 smugglers busted with 3 tons of pot off Calif. coast

Three Mexican nationals have been arrested in the United States on accusations of piloting a boat loaded with nearly three tons of marijuana worth $3 million off the California coast, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

The three men were arrested on federal drug trafficking charges early on Sunday after a bystander spotted their panga boat and called police to San Miguel Island, part of an archipelago off the Santa Barbara coast, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

A helicopter dispatched by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air and Marine landed on the uninhabited island and officials detained the men, who were transferred to a Coast Guard cutter that towed their boat and 5,700 pounds (2,600 kg) of marijuana to Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach.

The seized pot had an estimated street value of close to $3 million, the Coast Guard said.

The men were ordered held without bail at an appearance in federal court in Los Angeles on Monday, a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman said on Tuesday. A preliminary hearing was set for April 6 and an arraignment for April 10.

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