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AMO, Federal Authorities Nab 52 Bales of Cocaine near St. Thomas

Release Date: 
December 17, 2018

ST.THOMAS, Virgin Islands — U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations (AMO) and Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) law enforcement authorities seized a $30 million worth cocaine shipment and apprehended the smugglers, following the interdiction of a go-fast vessel Tuesday morning in international waters off Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“This interdiction is the result of ongoing multi-agency law enforcement efforts in support of Operation Full Court Press,” said Johnny Morales, Director of Air and Marine Operations in the Caribbean. “We remain committed to work with other law enforcement partners to detect and deter these intrusions.”52 bales of cocaine were found inside the suspect vessel

On Dec. 11, A US Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft from Air Station Miami detected a suspicious go-fast vessel Monday afternoon transiting with three people onboard, approximately 65 nautical miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

Coast Guard Watchstanders in Sector San Juan alerted an AMO DHC- 8 Marine Patrol Aircraft  along with other partner agencies under CBIG for a coordinated response.   

Throughout the multi-hour pursuit, the Coast Guard and CBP aircrews vectored-in the USCG cutter Joseph Tezanos to the go-fast’s position. 

Once on scene, the USCG cutter remained in hot pursuit of the vessel and interdicted the go-fast, approximately 95 miles nautical miles northeast of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. 

The three suspects onboard the go-fast claimed to be Dominican Republic nationals.  The Coast Guard boat crew located 52 bales of suspected contraband aboard the go-fast that a field test yielded positive results for cocaine.

The apprehended smugglers and seized contraband where transported to St. Thomas where they were transferred to the custody of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agents, who are leading the investigation into this case.

The apprehended smugglers are facing federal prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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.

In Fiscal Year 2017, AMO enforcement actions resulted in the approximate seizure or disruption of 269,790 pounds of cocaine, 384,230 pounds of marijuana, 5,721 pounds of methamphetamine, 1,089 weapons, and $26.1 million; 2,573 arrests; and 37,009 apprehensions of illegal aliens.

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.

For more information about CBP, visit: CBP.govFlickrDVIDS, or follow us on Twitter at @CBP and @CBP Caribbean.

Last modified: 
December 17, 2018