DHS ReCoM partners, Mexican Navy thwart smuggling attempt at sea

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SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, Customs and Border Protection and the Mexican Navy worked together to interdict approximately 4,600 pounds of marijuana and apprehend three suspected smugglers in international waters about 150 miles southwest of the U.S.-Mexico border, Sunday.

During a routine flight, a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion observed a suspicious 35-foot panga with three people aboard. Upon detection the people aboard the vessel attempted to flee and began throwing bales into the ocean.

A USS Rushmore sailor stands watch over 91 bales of marijuana aboard the Rushmore at Naval Base San Diego, June 9, 2014. The contraband was seized about 150 miles southwest of the U.S.-Mexico border, June 8, by DHS ReCoM agencies with the assistance of the Mexican navy. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Gina Ruoti)

A USS Rushmore sailor stands watch over 91 bales of marijuana aboard the Rushmore at Naval Base San Diego, June 9, 2014. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Gina Ruoti

The San Diego-based Coast Guard Cutter Petrel and USS Rushmore, the Alameda-based Coast Guard Cutter Waesche, a Sacramento-based Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft, and a CBP Office of Air and Marine multi-role enforcement aircraft along with Mexican Navy helicopters and interceptor vessels all responded to the case and assisted in spotting, pursuing, tracking, or intercepting the panga and recovering bales of marijuana.

After a brief chase the fleeing panga stopped and the suspected smugglers were taken into custody by the Waesche crew.

“I congratulate the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Navy, and Mexican Navy partners as well as our Coast Guard crews for their quick response and close coordination in this case,” said Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District. “Every shipment of drugs stopped at sea saves lives and denies drug trafficking organizations the resources they need to continue their destructive enterprise. This successful interdiction shows the value of capable platforms, established relationships, strong cooperation, effective plans, and tenacious people working toward a common goal of protecting our citizens and securing our coastal borders.”

The Coast Guard transported the suspected smugglers to San Diego and turned them over to the interagency San Diego Marine Task Force, the investigative arm of the ReCoM.

The USS Rushmore recovered 91 bales of marijuana and turned them over to MTF at Naval Base San Diego, Monday. The Waesche crew recovered additional floating bales of contraband.

The Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, MTF and CBP are member agencies of the Regional Coordinating Mechanism (ReCoM). The ReCoM is comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, CBP’s Office of Air and Marine, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and state and local law enforcement partners operating in Southern California. ReCoM coordinates planning and operations to target the threat of transnational crime along the coastal border.

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