Coast Guardsmen offloaded approximately 2,367 pounds of cocaine and 2,074 pounds of marijuana Sunday and transferred custody of seven suspected smugglers following two separate drug smuggling attempts in the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
The seized contraband was estimated to have a wholesale value of $33.9 million.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico will be filing a criminal complaint in the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico against the seven suspected smugglers, three Jamaicans, one Antiguan, and three Dominican Republic nationals who were apprehended in both cases.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez offloads 2,367 pounds of cocaine at Sector San Juan Aug. 28s. - U.S. Coast Guard photo
The disruptions and seizures of these drug shipments were the result of ongoing multi-agency law enforcement efforts in support of Operation Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force CCSF Initiative.
“The new Fast Response Cutters are delivering exceptional positive results by allowing us to effectively interdict drug smuggling vessels deeper into the Caribbean,” said Capt. Robert Warren, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander.
“The strong cooperation and partnerships between our international, federal and local law enforcement partners in the Caribbean are vital to the region’s security, as our collective efforts seek to prevent these drug shipments from reaching our shores and bring those responsible to justice. It’s a team effort, and it’s making a difference.”
In one case, the crew of a maritime patrol aircraft flying in support of Joint Interagency Task Force – South (JIATF-South) detected a suspicious go-fast vessel Aug. 24 with four people and possible contraband on board. The go-fast was detected approximately 44 nautical miles northeast of Blanquilla, Venezuela.
The Coast Guard Joseph Napier was diverted to interdict the suspect vessel. The Joseph Napier launched the cutter’s Over the Horizon Boat IV that came alongside and stopped the go-fast. The Coast Guard boarding team proceeded to board the go-fast and in the process located multiple bales of contraband that were field tested positive for marijuana. In total, 525 packages of marijuana weighing approximately 2,074 pounds were seized. The crew of the Joseph Napier embarked the contraband and apprehended the four men onboard, three Jamaicans an Antiguan national.
In a second case, the crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations (AMO) maritime patrol aircraft detected three men aboard a 25-foot go-fast vessel carrying a load of suspected contraband Aug. 25, approximately 93 nautical miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez responded to interdict the suspect vessel. While in pursuit of the go-fast, the Heriberto Hernandez launched the cutter’s Over the Horizon Boat IV and stopped the suspect vessel despite the erratic course changes made by the smugglers in an attempt to flee the area. The Coast Guard boarding team proceeded to board the go-fast and located 48 bales of suspected contraband that were shortly after identified as cocaine. The crew of the Heriberto Hernandez embarked the contraband and detained three men of Dominican Republic nationality.
The contraband shipments and detainees were transported by the Coast Guard to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where they were transferred to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration for further processing and investigation.
The Coast Guard Cutters Joseph Napier and Heriberto Hernandez are 154-foot Fast Response Cutters homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.