Coast Guard to offload $52 Million in Drugs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Coast Guard cutter will offload approximately 1,600 pounds of cocaine and turn over six suspected smugglers to federal agents for prosecution Friday at 9 a.m. at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.

Fishing vessel Miss Alyssa with Cutter Forward in the background.

The crew of the Cutter Forward located the illegal narcotics in a hidden compartment aboard the Honduran fishing vessel Miss Alyssa Feb. 25 in the western Caribbean Sea. Forward’s crew will be handing over the drugs to agents from Panama Express, a joint Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice joint-investigative task force.

“This case was an outstanding example of multiple unit coordination ashore and at sea,” said Cmdr. Matthew Sibley, the commanding officer of the Coast Guard Forward. “Detailed search efforts and a thorough relief by Cutter Dauntless coupled with expert coordination by Joint Interagency Task Force South and Coast Guard District Seven helped our boarding team zero in on the hidden compartments.”

Miss Alyssa was originally boarded by the Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless Feb. 24. The crew of the Dauntless found evidence of illegal narcotics with the use of an ion scan machine, similar to the machines used in airports, but they were unable to find the hidden compartment containing the illegal narcotics.

The Dauntless boarding team searching the Miss Alyssa was relieved by a Forward boarding team after the Cutter Dauntless had to continue on with another mission. The Forward boarding team later found the secret compartment after an all night systematic search.

The Coast Guard is the lead U.S. federal agency for all maritime drug interdiction operations and seized $4.7 billion worth cocaine in 2007. This continued success can attributed to the Coast Guard’s ongoing drug interdiction strategy known as “Campaign Steel Web.” This drug campaign has been successful due to three primary factors – better intelligence, more capable assets and bi-lateral international agreements with partner nations.

Panama Express includes agents from the Coast Guard Investigative Service, Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, Fla., coordinates country team and partner nation initiatives in order to defeat the flow of illicit traffic. JIATF South includes the Coast Guard, Department of Defense, ICE, DEA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, FBI, National Security Agency and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

The Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless is a 210-foot medium-endurance cutter from Galveston, Texas.

The Coast Guard Cutter Forward is a 270-foot medium endurance-cutter from Portsmouth, Va.

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