Coast Guard captures 6 smugglers, seize $3.2 million dollar cocaine and heroin shipment off Puerto Rico

7th Coast Guard District NewsSAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) law enforcement authorities, working in support of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF), arrested six Dominican smugglers, seizing a boat and a drug shipment of approximately 322 pounds of cocaine and 19 pounds of heroin during a maritime interdiction Thursday evening off the northern coast of Dorado, Puerto Rico.

The drug shipment was estimated to have a street value of over $3.2 million dollars.

“The outstanding efforts and collaboration between the federal and state law enforcement air and maritime crews are responsible for the successful interdiction, arrest and seizure of contraband in this case,” said Capt. Marc Stegman, Coast Guard Sector San Juan acting commander. “Federal and state law enforcement authorities are fully committed to ongoing interagency efforts to prevent illegal drug shipments from reaching our shores and bringing those responsible to justice.”

The crew of a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) marine patrol aircraft detected six men aboard a suspicious 21-foot-blue and white yola (boat), approximately 17 nautical miles from the coast of Dorado, Puerto Rico Thursday evening.

The crew of the CBP marine patrol aircraft vectored in a Coast Guard Station San Juan 33-foot Special Purpose Craft – Law Enforcement (SPC-LE), a Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine unit and a CBP UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to interdict the suspect vessel.

The crew of the CBP marine patrol aircraft observed the men onboard the suspect vessel jettison suspicious objects overboard after they noticed the presence of law enforcement authorities in the area.

The crew of the Coast Guard response boat arrived on scene, interdicted the suspect vessel and detained the six men onboard, approximately four nautical miles from the coast of Dorado. Meanwhile, the crew of the Puerto Rico Police marine unit was able to recover six bales from the water that had been thrown overboard from the suspect vessel. A further inspection of the recovered bales and a field test conducted by law enforcement authorities on the contents of the shipment revealed 131 packages of cocaine and eight packages of heroin.

The crew of a Coast Guard 33-foot SPC-LE rendezvoused with the Coast Guard Cutter Cushing 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 crew of the Coast Guard 33-foot SPC-LE proceeded to tow the seized vessel to Coast Guard Base San Juan.

The crew of a Coast Guard 45-foot response boat medium rendezvoused with the Cushing Friday morning, embarked the suspected smugglers and transported them to Coast Guard Base San Juan, where they turned custody of the six Dominicans to awaiting Immigrations and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents.

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

The Caribbean Corridor Strike Force is an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area HIDTA initiative that investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics utilizing the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. CCSF members are the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, ICE-Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Drug Enforcement Administration DEA, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Puerto Rico Police.

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