Coast Guard and CBIG authorities nab 6 smugglers, seize vessel, $8 million dollar cocaine shipment

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Coast Guard and Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) law enforcement authorities, working in support of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF), arrested six Dominican smugglers, seized a boat and approximately 330 kilograms of cocaine and over one kilogram of heroin Monday, approximately 50 nautical miles north-northwest off the coast of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

The drug shipment was estimated to have a street value of over $8 million dollars.

“This is the second major drug bust in less than two weeks resulting from the close coordination between all law enforcement agencies in the region,” said Capt. Drew Pearson, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander.  “Interagency outcomes like this keep drugs off the streets and puts criminals in jail where they belong.  Our commitment is strong, as we continue aggressive interagency efforts to ensure the safety of the citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents onboard a CBP DCH-8 marine surveillance detected the six men aboard a suspicious 25-foot unmarked fiberglass boat Sunday night transiting illegally towards Puerto Rico.

Coast Guard Watchstanders in Sector San Juan received notification from a CBP agent of the ongoing situation and proceeded to divert the Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus to interdict the suspect vessel.

The Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus arrived on scene, interdicted the suspect vessel and detained the six men onboard.   Matinicus boarding team members searched the suspect vessel and located 15 bales of suspected contraband.  A field test conducted by Matinicus crewmembers on the contents of the shipment revealed the contraband to be cocaine, including over one kilogram of heroin.

The crew of the Matinicus rendezvoused with the Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant and embarked the suspected smugglers to run a biometrics background check and verify if any of them had a previous criminal or illegal immigration history with the U.S. government.

The Matinicus transferred custody of the six Dominicans, the suspect vessel and the seized contraband to awaiting Immigrations and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico Tuesday afternoon.

“These arrests and multi-kilogram seizure are a clear indication of the success of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force Initiative,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.  “We will continue maximizing all of our combined resources to investigate and prosecute those who in flagrant disregard of our laws and way of life try to smuggle illegal contraband into our area of jurisdiction.”

In July 2006, CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Office of Border Patrol – Ramey Sector, the United States Attorney‘s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid action (FURA) in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.

CCSF is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. CCSF is part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and 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 U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, the Coast Guard, CBP and PRPD’s Joint Forces for Rapid Action.

If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.