SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) law enforcement authorities arrested two smugglers Wednesday, seizing a vessel and 77 bricks of cocaine, following an at-sea interdiction Tuesday, approximately 15 nautical miles north of Mona Island, Puerto Rico.The crew of a U.S. Customs an Border Protection DHC-8 aircraft initially located two vessels Tuesday night, during a law enforcement patrol in the Mona Passage, that were operating alongside each other with no running navigational lights. The Customs and Border Protection DHC-8 crew observed the passengers onboard the vessels transferring what appeared to be possible contraband from one vessel to the other.
The Coast Guard Cutter Farallon diverted to the scene and with the assistance of the Customs and Border Protection DHC-8 aircraft and a Blackhawk helicopter interdicted one of the suspect vessels; a 17-foot wooden yola with two passengers onboard.
During the Farallon’s interdiction, the crew of the Customs and Border Protection aircraft observed the passengers onboard the vessel throwing the suspicious cargo overboard.
A Puerto Rico Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine unit with a Border Patrol Agent onboard also responded to the scene and recovered four bales that had been thrown overboard containing 65 bricks of an unknown substance, while a rescue swimmer aboard the Farallon was able to recover 12 additional bricks from the sea.
Upon interdicting the vessel, the crew of the Farallon conducted an at-sea boarding of the vessel and field tested the seized contraband that yielded positive to cocaine.
The crew of the Farallon transported the detainees and towed the suspect vessel to the Port of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Wednesday afternoon, where they transferred custody of the detainees, the seized contraband and the interdicted vessel to awaiting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agents for further investigation.
The case will be transferred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico for further prosecution.
Coast Guard Cutter Farallon is a 110-foot patrol boat home ported in San Juan.
The concept of CBIG resulted from a March 2006 collaboration of local Homeland Security components that effectively stemmed the increased flow of traffic across the Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. In July 2006, CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air & Marine (A&M), Office of Field Operations (OFO), and Office of Border Patrol (OBP), the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the United States Attorney ‘ s Office, District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid action (FURA) in their common goal of securing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal maritime traffic and gaining control of our nation’s Caribbean borders.