PONCE, Puerto Rico – Marine Interdiction Agents of US Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations (AMO), intercepted Wednesday a vessel with three men from the Dominican Republic and Colombia transporting approximately 3,382 pounds (1,534 kilos) of cocaine, south of Patillas, Puerto Rico. The estimated value of the seized narcotics is approximately $35 million.
“Smugglers continue to try to introduce narcotics through Puerto Rico,” stated Creighton Skeen, Acting Director of Air and Marine Operations at the Caribbean Air and Marine Branch (CAMB). “AMO remains resolute to leverage its resources, technology, and maritime domain awareness to be able to intercept these incursions throughout the island.”
A Jacksonville-based Multi-role Enforcement Aircraft (MEA) crew on assignment to Caribbean Air and Marine Branch detected a 30-foot Yola-type vessel with two outboard engines travelling north towards Puerto Rico, with visible bales and three occupants onboard. The MEA maintained surveillance of the vessel coordinating with the crews of two Fajardo Marine Unit Coastal Interceptor vessels to intercept.
Ponce-based Marine Interdiction Agents also responded to the scene by land to the Punta Vientos area in Patillas, Puerto Rico, along with FURA Police Department (PRPD) officers to provide extra assets to the possible landing area, with support from Caribbean Air and Marine Operations Center personnel.
The Yola ran aground on a reef, where MIA’s and PRPD officers arrested three men, two from the Dominican Republic and one from Colombia. Agents found 44 bales, which later tested positive for the properties of cocaine.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) assumed custody of the individuals and the contraband for further investigation and subsequent prosecution.
“Drug trafficking continues to fuel the violence that is poisoning Puerto Rico” stated DEA’s Caribbean Division Special Agent in Charge Denise Foster. “The DEA will continue to work with its counterparts strengthening our partnerships to eradicate these drug trafficking organizations.”
AMO safeguards our Nation by anticipating and confronting security threats through our aviation and maritime law enforcement expertise, innovative capabilities, and partnerships at the border and beyond. 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 conducts its mission in the air and maritime environments at and beyond the border, and within the nation's interior.