Coast Guard, CBIG authorities arrest two smugglers, seize go-fast vessel and 16.5 million dollar cocaine shipment

Southeastern Coast Guard NewsSAN 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 two smugglers, seized a go-fast vessel and a 22-bale of cocaine shipment in waters south of Puerto Rico Tuesday morning.

The drug shipment was estimated to weigh approximately 1,455 pounds and have a wholesale value of over $16.5 million dollars.

“This successful outcome is a result of multiple innovative multi-agency initiatives being brought to bear to enhance the ongoing and tireless efforts between all law enforcement agencies in the region that remain steadfastly committed to the safety and security of citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Capt. Drew Pearson, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander.

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

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents on a routine patrol on board a CBP DCH-8 marine surveillance aircraft detected two men aboard a suspicious 30-foot go-fast vessel with two outboard engines adrift and multiple bales of suspected contraband onboard, approximately 55 nautical miles south of Salinas, Puerto Rico Monday night.

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 Reef Shark and a Coast Guard Boat Station San Juan 33-foot Special Purpose Craft/Law Enforcement to interdict the suspect vessel. A CBP Midnight maritime unit also responded.

The crew of the 33-foot Special Purpose Craft/Law Enforcement arrived on-scene Tuesday morning and interdicted the go-fast vessel that became adrift after running out of fuel. The Reef Shark and CBP marine unit arrived on scene shortly thereafter. A Coast Guard boarding team located the cocaine shipment sitting in plain view aboard the go-fast vessel and they proceeded to detain and embark the suspected smugglers and the 22-bale cocaine shipment aboard the Reef Shark.

A field test conducted by Reef Shark crewmembers on the contents of the shipment revealed the contraband to be cocaine.

The Reef Shark proceeded to tow the go-fast vessel to Ponce, Puerto Rico, where the crew transferred custody of the seized vessel and the two suspected to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents Tuesday night. The Reef Shark transported the cocaine shipment to Coast Guard Sector San Juan, where it was transferred to ICE-HSI special agents Wednesday afternoon.

In July 2006, CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), CBP’s 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 Reef Shark is an 87-foot coastal patrol boat homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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