SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Coast Guardsmen and federal law enforcement authorities offloaded approximately 3,157 pounds of cocaine and transferred custody of four suspected smugglers at Coast Guard Sector San Juan Friday, following the interdiction of drug smuggling go-fast vessel in the Caribbean Sea Monday.
The seized contraband was estimated to have a wholesale value of $36 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 four suspected smugglers, three Venezuelan and one Dominican Republic nationals who were apprehended aboard the go-fast.
The interdiction and seizure of this drug shipment was 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.
“In this case, the robust capability of our newest Coast Guard Fast Response Cutters was brought to bear with exceptional results,” said Capt. Robert Warren, Sector San Juan commander. “In addition, the unprecedented cooperation and teamwork between all federal and Commonwealth agencies continue to take drugs off the street and keep these major drug shipments from reaching the shores of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.”
While on a routine patrol of the Caribbean Sea Monday evening, the crew of a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry maritime patrol aircraft detected a suspicious go-fast vessel with four people and possible contraband on board. The go-fast was detected approximately 45 nautical miles of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.
The Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser was diverted to interdict the suspect vessel. Upon arriving on scene, the Winslow Griesser stopped the go-fast despite failed evasive maneuvers from the suspected smugglers who attempted to flee the area. The Coast Guard Winslow Griesser’s boarding team proceeded to board the go-fast and in the process located multiple bales of contraband that tested positive for cocaine. In total, 36 bales bales of cocaine were seized. The crew of the Winslow Griesser embarked the contraband and apprehended the four men onboard, three Venezuelan and a Dominican Republic national. Following the interdiction the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier arrived on scene to assist the Winslow Griesser and embarked the four detainees.
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 Drug Enforcement Administration Officers and Special Agents Friday for further processing and investigation.
The Coast Guard Cutters Winslow Griesser and Joseph Napier 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.