Rescuers with an overturned panga boat in May 2020. Courtesy CBP

The alleged ringleader of a human smuggling operation partially based out of San Diego has been indicted on federal charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Friday.

Guillermo Barba, 29, of San Diego was arraigned Thursday in San Diego federal court on charges of conspiracy to bring in illegal aliens for financial gain and conspiracy to transport illegal aliens for financial gain, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors said Barba led an organization thought to be responsible for at least 25 occurrences of alien smuggling dating back to November 2017.

The organization, based out of San Diego and Baja California, allegedly used panga boats, pleasure crafts and multiple load vehicles in its “sophisticated maritime smuggling operation,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

“Maritime smuggling puts lives at risk and is extremely dangerous. Smugglers often use unsafe boats to enter the U.S. illegally,” said San Diego Sector Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke.

U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said, “In addition to undermining this nation’s border security, smuggling on the ocean is extremely dangerous for the individuals being smuggled.”

Barba is next due in court Aug. 4 for a detention hearing.

— City News Service

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