SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Coast Guardsmen offloaded approximately 2,367 pounds of cocaine and 2,074 pounds of marijuana Sunday and transferred custody of seven suspected smugglers following two separate drug smuggling attempts in the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
The seized contraband was estimated to have a wholesale value of $33.9 million.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico will be filing a criminal complaint in the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico against the seven suspected smugglers, three Jamaicans, one Antiguan, and three Dominican Republic nationals who were apprehended in both cases.
The disruptions and seizures of these drug shipments were the result of ongoing multi-agency law enforcement efforts in support of Operation Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force CCSF Initiative.
“The new Fast Response Cutters are delivering exceptional positive results by allowing us to effectively interdict drug smuggling vessels deeper into the Caribbean,” said Capt. Robert Warren, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander. “The strong cooperation and partnerships between our international, federal and local law enforcement partners in the Caribbean are vital to the region’s security, as our collective efforts seek to prevent these drug shipments from reaching our shores and bring those responsible to justice. It’s a team effort, and it’s making a difference.”
In one case, the crew of a maritime patrol aircraft flying in support of Joint Interagency Task Force – South (JIATF-South) detected a suspicious go-fast vessel Aug. 24 with four people and possible contraband on board. The go-fast was detected approximately 44 nautical miles northeast of Blanquilla, Venezuela.
The Coast Guard Joseph Napier was diverted to interdict the suspect vessel. The Joseph Napier launched the cutter’s Over the Horizon Boat IV that came alongside and stopped the go-fast. The Coast Guard boarding team proceeded to board the go-fast and in the process located multiple bales of contraband that were field tested positive for marijuana. In total, 525 packages of marijuana weighing approximately 2,074 pounds were seized. The crew of the Joseph Napier embarked the contraband and apprehended the four men onboard, three Jamaicans an Antiguan national.
In a second case, the crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations (AMO) maritime patrol aircraft detected three men aboard a 25-foot go-fast vessel carrying a load of suspected contraband Aug. 25, approximately 93 nautical miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez responded to interdict the suspect vessel. While in pursuit of the go-fast, the Heriberto Hernandez launched the cutter’s Over the Horizon Boat IV and stopped the suspect vessel despite the erratic course changes made by the smugglers in an attempt to flee the area. The Coast Guard boarding team proceeded to board the go-fast and located 48 bales of suspected contraband that were shortly after identified as cocaine. The crew of the Heriberto Hernandez embarked the contraband and detained three men of Dominican Republic nationality.
The contraband shipments and detainees were transported by the Coast Guard to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where they were transferred to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration for further processing and investigation.
The Coast Guard Cutters Joseph Napier and Heriberto Hernandez are 154-foot Fast Response Cutters homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
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 CCSF is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Puerto Rico created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. It is part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) that investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics using the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed of HSI, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Coast Guard, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Police Department’s (PRPD) Joint Forces for Rapid Action.