SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico —The Coast Guard offloaded Monday approximately 4.2 tons of seized cocaine, worth an estimated $125 million in wholesale value, at Coast Guard Sector San Juan.
Four Guyanese men apprehended in this case were transferred Saturday to federal law enforcement authorities in Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, where they face potential prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office – District of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This interdiction is the largest maritime seizure in the Atlantic since 1999 and was the result of ongoing, multi-agency and international law enforcement efforts led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Saint Croix and assisted by DEA Barbados Office and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force in support of Operation Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard, and international cooperation, including the British National Crime Agency (NCA).
During night of Feb. 16, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier detected and interdicted a suspicious fishing vessel in international waters north of Paramaribo, Suriname, in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Joseph Napier crew interdicted the 70-foot fishing vessel, Lady Michelle, detained the four suspected smugglers and seized numerous bales of contraband, which tested positive for cocaine. Following the interdiction, a Trinidad and Tobago SPA class Coast Guard cutter based out of Staubles Bay, Trinidad, which was on a joint patrol with the Joseph Napier, provided safety and escort assistance on scene.
The crew of the Joseph Napier seized the contraband, apprehended the detainees, and towed the fishing vessel until relieved by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant. Vigilant then towed the fishing vessel to the island of St. Vincent, where the Lady Michelle is registered, and transferred the seized vessel to the custody of the St. Vincent Coast Guard.
The contraband was transported to Puerto Rico, where it was disembarked and placed in the custody of DEA, Caribbean Division special agents for processing and disposition.
“The excellent coordination between the U.S. Coast Guard, and international law enforcement agencies prevented this major drug shipment from reaching our communities,” said Capt. Robert W. Warren, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander. “We appreciate our continued partnerships with the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard and St. Vincent Coast Guard. Our collective efforts are working to secure our region’s maritime borders and protect our citizens from this threat.”
“As the cocaine flow from South America continues to increase, law enforcement partners in the Eastern Caribbean Region have to increase our collaborative efforts in order to effectively respond to the threat,” said James Doby, Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) DEA Caribbean Division. “Such collaborative efforts are currently underway in the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force, where law enforcement partners are collocated every day.”
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 the 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 Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier is a 154-foot Fast Response Cutter homeported in San Juan. The Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant is a 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutter homeported in Port Canaveral, Florida.