SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Coast Guard and Mexican Navy recovered more than eight tons of marijuana, seized a smuggling boat, and took four suspected smugglers into custody Thursday after disrupting a smuggling operation in international waters off the coast of Baja California, Mexico.
A Coast Guard C-130 Hercules patrol aircraft from Air Station Sacramento, Calif., detected a suspicious vessel about 60 miles west of Isla Cedros. The Coast Guard Cutter Aspen, homeported in San Francisco, was diverted to investigate. They launched an interceptor boat with a law enforcement team made up of the Aspen’s crewmembers and Maritime Safety and Security Team Galveston members.
The smugglers tried to flee, throwing bails of contraband overboard. The interceptor boat crew was able to stop the smuggling vessel and took the crew and contraband into custody.
A Mexican Navy patrol boat responded to the scene and rendezvoused with the Aspen. Mexican authorities took custody of the suspected smugglers, a sample of the contraband, and the suspects’ vessel.
Aspen’s crew, with continued aerial coverage from the C-130, remained on scene and recovered 16,588 pounds of marijuana, an estimated $15 million value.
“The crew did an outstanding job,” said Cmdr. Steven Wittrock, commanding officer of the Aspen. “I am really impressed with their ability to switch mission focus from working aids to navigation to prosecuting a counter-drug seizure. The crew teamed up the MSST members onboard to achieve our goal of stopping illegal drugs from entering the United States.” he said. “We had outstanding coordination among all the facets: the C-130 from Sacramento, the Aspen’s crew, MSST Galveston, the District communication center and the Mexican Navy.”
The Aspen transported the marijuana to San Diego, where it was handed over to Marine Task Force personnel.