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AMO Crew Makes $76M Drug Interdictions

Release Date: 
March 18, 2019

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Over a two-day period, agents from Air and Marine Operations (AMO) foiled an international attempt to smuggle nearly three-tons of cocaine across open waters between Feb. 28 and Mar. 2.

tarped vessel
These suspects were transporting over
3200 pounds of cocaine when an AMO
crew detected them.

These efforts resulted in the capture of three suspects, the interception of the illicit narcotics valued at $76,456,839 and the seizure of two vessels. 

Flying aboard a P-3 aircraft, the AMO crew was patrolling the Eastern Pacific ocean as part of the Joint Interagency Task Force-South when they detected and tracked two go-fast vessels in a two-day period. The crew detected the first vessel Feb. 28 as it sat in open water.  The AMO crew, based at the National Air Security Operations Center – Corpus Christi, Texas, monitored the vessel as it began moving at a high-rate of speed.  The crew alerted Costa Rican law enforcement agencies who pursued the vessel as its crew began dumping bales of cocaine overboard. The vessel was later found abandoned. Costa Rican authorities were able to recover the go-fast vessel and more than 2600 pounds of cocaine valued at $34,474,930.

The P-3 crew was again patrolling the open waters on Mar. 2 when they spotted another go-fast vessel traveling at a high-rate of speed. After coordinating with Costa Rican law enforcement agencies, they dispatched two vessels to intercept the suspects, the cocaine-laden vessel and packages that had been thrown overboard.  This interception resulted in the arrest of three suspects, the seizure of the vessel and more than 3200 pounds of cocaine valued at nearly $42,000,000.

bales in the ocean
Bales of cocaine float in the water. The
crew threw them overboard after they
realized they had been spotted.

“Our personnel execute complex aviation operations in some of the most challenging foreign environments to interdict the transnational criminal organization’s smuggling efforts,” said NASOC-CC Acting Deputy Director Scott Peterson.  “This interception illustrates why the P-3 program is the single most successful counter narcotics program in history.”

The National Air Security Operations Center—Corpus Christi is a division of Air and Marine Operations and operates the Lockheed P-3 Orion conducting counter-drug patrol missions over the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Together with the National Air Security Operations Center in Jacksonville, Florida, Customs and Border Protection P-3 crews seized or disrupted 261,939 pounds of cocaine in various operations conducted in 2018.

AMO is a federal law enforcement organization dedicated to serving and protecting the American people through advanced aeronautical and maritime capabilities. AMO interdicts unlawful people and cargo approaching U.S. borders, investigates criminal networks and provides domain awareness in the air and maritime environments, and responds to contingencies and national taskings. With approximately 1,800 federal agents and mission support personnel, 240 aircraft and 300 marine vessels operating throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands, AMO serves as the nation’s experts in airborne and maritime law enforcement.

More information about AMO operations and its results can be found in the annual CBP Border Security Report.

Last modified: 
March 18, 2019