Coast Guard apprehends 3 Dominicans in drug smuggling attempt off Puerto Rico

A boat crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon’s small boat is on scene with a suspected drug smuggling vessel with three Dominican men onboard June 23, 2016, approximately 70 nautical miles north of Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The men were apprehended and are facing potential criminal prosecution in the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico. Their faces have been blurred to protect their identities. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

A boat crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon’s small boat is on scene with a suspected drug smuggling vessel with three Dominican men onboard June 23, 2016(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard transferred custody of three Dominican men suspected of drug smuggling to federal law enforcement officers Sunday, following the interdiction of a  go-fast boat June 23, approximately 70 nautical miles north of Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico filed a criminal complaint in the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico against the three men, who are facing potential charges under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act.  One of the men is also pending charges for attempted illegal re-entry into the United States, while the two others are pending charges for attempted illegal entry.

The disruption of this drug smuggling attempt was the result of ongoing multi-agency law enforcement efforts in support of Operation Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Border Interagency Group.

“Coast Guard coordination efforts with our Department of Homeland Security partners in Puerto Rico and throughout the Caribbean continue to put the Richard Dixon on target, said Lt. David Gilbert, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon commanding officer.  The cutter’s boarding officers did a great job of exercising Coast Guard authorities in the process of stopping this vessel.

The interdiction occurred during the afternoon, after the crew of a patrolling U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations (AMO) maritime patrol aircraft detected a suspicious 20-foot gray go-fast vessel transiting with three people and packages of suspected contraband onboard.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan proceeded to divert the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon to interdict the vessel and launched a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft to assist with aerial surveillance.

The Richard Dixon arrived on scene and launched the ship’s small boat to pursue the go-fast.  Meanwhile, the suspected smugglers were observed by the CBP aircrew jettisoning their cargo overboard.  After stopping the go-fast, the crew of the Richard Dixon cutter boat embarked the three men due to the go-fast vessel taking on water and sinking. Following the interdiction, the Richard Dixon conducted an extensive search for the jettisoned cargo with negative results.

The detainees were transported to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where they were transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ICE – Homeland Security Investigation special agents Sunday.

Operation Unified Resolve is a coordinated effort among the Coast Guard and its Department of Homeland Security partners intended to deter, detect and disrupt illicit maritime trafficking to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Coast Guard’s efforts under Operation Unified Resolve contribute to the interagency results being achieved locally each and every day under Operation Caribbean Guard, which coordinates efforts between the Coast Guard, DHS and Commonwealth and Territorial law enforcement partners, who are working diligently to deter, detect and disrupt illicit maritime trafficking to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Richard Dixon is a 154-foot fast response cutter homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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