More than four tons of marijuana – reportedly worth more than $3 million -- was found floating listlessly off the coast of Southern California with no suspected owners in sight, authorities said.
A boater spotted the 180 bales of pot, wrapped in plastic, bobbing about 15 miles from the coastal town of Dana Point, Calif. just after noon Sunday, officials said. The Orange County Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Coast Guard both sent out boats to recover the 8,068 pound stash, which was then turned over the U.S. Border Patrol.
U.S. Border Patrol agent Scott Simon told ABC News that the incident is currently under investigation and said it's still a mystery as to how the pot got there.
Another Border Patrol official, Michael Jimenez, told the Orange County Register large shipments of drugs are sometimes dropped overboard when smugglers are trying to flee from authorities.
"At other events, they've dumped the bales to get rid of weight if they're being chased," he said. "Generally in these cases we're aware they're being dumped. What's more unusual is that the bales were floating with no boat in sight."
Drug smugglers have been coming up with increasingly audacious and creative ways to try to move marijuana, cocaine and other contraband from Mexico and South America into the United States in recent years.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, narcotic submarines, which can typically carry four to five crew members and travel up to 5,000 miles, are regularly used to move contraband. One was caught in the Caribbean last August carrying 7.5 tons of cocaine.
Last December, federal officials discovered a drug tunnel ending in San Diego, Calif., that had a secret working elevator, electric lighting, rail cars and hydraulic doors.
Just a few months before that, 18 metered parking spaces in the Arizona border town of Nogales were found to have trap doors into drug tunnels so that traffickers in the U.S. could pull narcotics directly into their parked cars.