Nearly $122 million of seized cocaine offloaded in San Diego

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SAN DIEGO — Roughly four tons of cocaine seized by U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement teams operating from U.S. Navy, Canadian navy, and U.S. Coast Guard ships in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean were transferred Monday from the guided-missile frigate USS Rentz by U.S. law enforcement authorities to be used as evidence in legal proceedings against alleged smugglers.

The contraband, seized in nine separate interdictions, represents 22% of the cocaine seized at sea by the Coast Guard in both the Atlantic and Pacific this fiscal year which began Oct. 1, 2013. The estimated value of the cocaine is $122 million. The interdictions were:

SAN DIEGO – Packages of cocaine seized by U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement teams sit on the deck of the guided-missile frigate USS Rentz before being offloaded in San Diego, March 3, 2014. Coast Guard teams operating aboard Coast Guard cutters and both U.S. and Canadian Navy ships in the Eastern Pacific Ocean interdicted the nearly four tons of narcotics during nine separate at-sea interdictions. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Connie Terrell.

Packages of cocaine seized by U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement teams sit on the deck of the guided-missile frigate USS Rentz before being offloaded in San Diego, March 3, 2014. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Connie Terrell.

— Oct. 26, 2013, A U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment, patrolling aboard the Canadian Navy vessel HMCS Edmonton, seized approximately 1,410 pounds of cocaine and detained three suspects whose suspicious vessel had been spotted by a U.S. Navy aircraft 300 miles southwest of Guatemala.

— Oct. 28, 2013, HMCS Edmonton intercepted and a Coast Guard LEDET seized approximately 888 pounds of cocaine and detained three suspects from another vessel detected by a U.S. Navy aircraft approximately 190 miles southwest of Guatemala.

— Nov. 6, 2013, a helicopter crew from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Rush spotted a suspicious vessel approximately 120 miles southwest of the El Salvador-Guatemala border. A marksman aboard the helicopter fired warning shots and engine disabling gunfire to stop the fleeing vessel. Approximately 639 pounds of cocaine and four suspected smugglers were taken into custody. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine P-3 aircraft was also involved in tracking the vessel.

— Nov. 30, 2013, the Coast Guard Cutter Rush and LEDET 401 aboard the USS Rentz teamed up to seize approximately 1,014 pounds of cocaine and detain three suspected smugglers from a Costa Rican fishing boat approximately 50 miles south of Isla de Cohiba, Panama. The vessel had been spotted by a U.S. Navy aircraft. Cocaine was discovered hidden in fishing buoys on the boat.

— Dec. 3, 2013, a U.S. Navy aircraft located a suspicious “go-fast” boat approximately 145 miles southeast of Mal Pelo Island, Colombia. The Coast Guard Cutter Mellon intercepted the boat and a boarding team recovered approximately 352 pounds of cocaine from the vessel.

— Dec. 17, 2013, U.S. Coast Guard LEDET 401 aboard USS Rentz seized approximately 690 pounds and detained three suspected smugglers from a fleeing Ecuadoran vessel 240 miles northeast of the Galapagos Islands. The suspected smuggler’s boat was stopped by a Coast Guard airborne marksman shooting out their engines.

— Dec. 18, 2013, a U.S. Navy aircraft located a “go-fast” boat 75 miles south of Guatemala. A helicopter from Cutter Mellon stopped the vessel by shooting out their engines and a boarding team from the cutter seized approximately 1,164 pounds of cocaine.

— Dec. 30, 2013, Coast Guard and CPB aircraft located a suspicious vessel approximately 290 miles south of the Mexico-Guatemala border. The Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell intercepted the boat and an estimated 1,377 pounds of cocaine and three suspects were taken into custody.

— Jan. 20, 2014, U.S. Coast Guard C-130 aircraft spotted a suspicious vessel and coordinated with USS Rentz to intercept it. Coast Guard LEDET 406 aboard the USS RENTZ seized approximately 535 pounds and detained three suspects who stopped their boat after a Coast Guard marksman aboard one of the USS Rentz’ helicopters fired warning shots.

“The reach and impact of our law enforcement teams is greatly expanded by our partnerships with the U.S. and Canadian Navies as well as other agencies and nations in the region,” said Rear Admiral Karl Schultz, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District. “The cartels, or transnational criminal organizations behind this smuggling, are engaged in wide-ranging illegal activities, destabilize the regions in which they operate, and engage in brutal and ruthless violence to further their criminal activities. They threaten the security of our homeland and we need to aggressively thwart their smuggling operations. Every shipment stopped denies these criminal organizations the funds and resources they need to perpetuate their violent, destructive practices,” he said.

The interdictions were part of Operation Martillo, a coordinated interagency, international effort that targets illicit trafficking routes and includes the participation of 14 countries committed to a regional approach against transnational criminal organizations moving illicit cargo.

Click the photo for more pictures.

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