Coast Guard, partners apprehend 9 smugglers, seize $46.2 million in cocaine

Crewmembers of the Coast Guard Cutter Bear (WMEC-901) offload 3,086 pounds of cocaine Tuesday in San Juan, Puerto Rico Feb. 4, 2020. The drugs were seized following two separate interdictions in the Caribbean Sea by the Coast Guard and the United Kingdom Royal Navy Jan. 24 and Jan. 30, which resulted in the detention of nine smugglers.

Crewmembers of the Coast Guard Cutter Bear (WMEC-901) offload 3,086 pounds of cocaine Tuesday in San Juan, Puerto Rico Feb. 4, 2020.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ricardo Castrodad.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Coast Guard, United Kingdom Royal Navy and U.S. law enforcement partners seized 1,400 kilograms (3,086) pounds of cocaine and detained nine suspected smugglers following the interdiction of two separate drug smuggling events in the Caribbean Sea Jan. 24 and Jan. 30, 2020.

The seized drug shipments are estimated to have a wholesale value of more than $46.2 million.

The interdiction was a result of an international, multi-agency law enforcement effort in support of Operation Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard, Campaign Martillo (a joint, interagency, 20-nation collaborative counter narcotic effort), and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF), and will be prosecuted by the U.S. Federal District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.


“These interdictions highlight the importance of working with our allied partners such as the United Kingdom Royal Navy, as well as our joint interagency collaboration with the Department of Defense and our local and federal law enforcement in the region, said Rear Adm. Eric C. Jones, commander of the Coast Guard Seventh District. “These efforts, underpinned by our unwavering resolve to stop drug smuggling vessels at sea, greatly contribute to safeguarding our citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and protecting our shared interests of a safer and more secure Caribbean.”

“These interdictions highlight the importance of working with our international partners as we combat drug trafficking,” said W. Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “These large drug seizures make our community safer by keeping the narcotics out of our neighborhoods. We commend all of our partner agencies for their steadfast efforts.”

“These operations reiterate the significance of intelligence and resource sharing amongst agencies,” said A.J. Collazo, DEA Caribbean Division special agent in charge. “Successful interdictions like these, will continue to happen as a result of the collaborative efforts between DEA, USCG, HSI, FBI, the USAO and our foreign counterparts. We will continue to aggressively target and disrupt drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean.”

In the first interdiction, the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy RFA Mounts Bay (L3008), while on patrol with a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) and a Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) armed helicopter onboard, detected two suspicious go-fast vessels, approximately 74 nautical miles south of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The RFA Mounts Bay launched the Coast Guard HITRON helicopter and the ship’s pursuit vessel with the Coast Guard LEDET to interdict both suspect vessels.

The Coast Guard LEDET boarding team, with the assistance of RFA Mounts Bay crewmembers, boarded both suspect vessels, apprehending the seven men and seizing 42 bales of suspected contraband.

In the second interdiction, a marine patrol aircraft detected a northbound target of interest, southeast of Isla Beata, Dominican Republic. The Coast Guard Cutter Bear along with a helicopter responded to interdict the go-fast. Cutter Bear’s Over the Horizon cutter boat and embarked helicopter arrived on scene and stopped the go-fast. Cutter Bear’s boarding team detained the two men aboard the go-fast, after discovering 13 bales of suspected contraband.

The cutter Bear delivered the seized contraband and detainees from both cases to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-HSI, and DEA special agents in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Tuesday.

Between October 2019 and December 2019, the Coast Guard and Caribbean Border Interagency Group authorities have seized 12,060 kilograms of cocaine and 407 pounds of Marijuana during law enforcement operations surrounding Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The wholesale value for these seizures is worth more than $314 million.

Cutter Bear (WMEC-901) is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Portsmouth Va.

The RFA Mounts Bay is a Bay-class auxiliary landing ship dock belonging to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), which provides logistical support to the United Kingdom Royal Navy.

These cases are part of the CCSF, a multiagency OCDETF strike force comprised of federal and state law enforcement agencies, including the DEA, DHS, ICE, FBI, USCG, U.S. Marshals Service, Internal Revenue Service and the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety.

The Coast Guard’s efforts under Operation Unified Resolve contribute to the interagency results being achieved each and every day locally under Operation Caribbean Guard, which coordinates efforts between the Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Commonwealth and Territorial law enforcement partners, who are working diligently to deter, detect and disrupt illicit maritime trafficking to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


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