Coast Guard seizes $28.5 million in cocaine off Loiza, Puerto Rico

Bales of cocaine lie at Sector San Juan, March 22, 2019. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos offloaded more than 2 tons of cocaine. Coast Guard Photo by Ricardo Castrodad.

Bales of cocaine lie at Sector San Juan, March 22, 2019. Coast Guard Photo by Ricardo Castrodad.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos (WPC-1118) offloaded 2,513 pounds (1,140 kilos) of cocaine Friday and transferred custody of three suspected smugglers to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agents in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Coast Guard, DEA and Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) law enforcement authorities seized the $28.5 million dollar cocaine shipment and apprehended three men of Dominican Republic nationality, following the interdiction of a 30-foot go-fast vessel in waters north of Loiza, Puerto Rico.

This interdiction is the result of ongoing multi-agency law enforcement efforts in support of Operation Caribbean Guard, the CBIG and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF).


The suspected smugglers are facing likely federal prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico.

“This seizure highlights how effectively the Caribbean Border Interagency Group and Caribbean Corridor Strike Force work together to disrupt the flow of illicit drugs into Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Lt. Cmdr. Mario Gil, cutter Tezanos commanding officer. “We take great pride in knowing that our collective efforts led to this significant victory in combating these transnational criminal organizations who attempt to flood our streets with crime and instability. I am proud of my crew; their drive, skill, and teamwork were directly responsible for our success in this case. Knowing that we kept over a ton of cocaine out of the streets of Puerto Rico is an amazing feeling!”

“We are after those transnational criminal organizations that plague our communities and endanger our youth,” said DEA Caribbean Division Special Agent in Charge A.J. Collazo. “The DEA, the USCG, CBP, and many other federal agencies will not rest. Drug traffickers work at any given hours and so do we.”

While on a routine patrol, the crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) DHC- 8 Marine Patrol Aircraft detected a suspicious go-fast vessel transiting with three people onboard and suspected contraband, approximately 50 nautical miles north of Loiza, Puerto Rico.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan diverted the cutter Tezanos to interdict the go-fast. Once on scene, the Tezanos crew launched the cutter’s Over the Horizon Boat that closed-in and stopped the suspect vessel. The Tezanos crew embarked the suspected smugglers, seized 38 bales of contraband that tested positive for cocaine, and destroyed the go-fast as a danger to navigation.

DEA Special Agents assigned to CCSF, who are leading the investigation into this case, received custody of the detainees and seized contraband.

The cutter Joseph Tezanos is a 154-foot Fast Response Cutter homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Operation Caribbean Guard is a Department of Homeland Security multi-agency law enforcement operation to support ongoing efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands executed under the San Juan Regional Coordinating Mechanism (SJ ReCoM)/Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG).

CBIG unifies efforts between U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action, 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 a U.S. Attorney’s Office initiative created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. CCSF if 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 and illegal narcotics utilizing the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is comprised of ICE-HIS, The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Puerto Rico Police Department’s Joint Forces of Rapid Action.


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