AMO takes part in $60 million narcotics seizure in Caribbean
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) with federal and local law enforcement agencies, working under the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF) initiative, seized earlier this week more 2,386 kilograms of cocaine and 1,010 kilograms of marihuana with an estimated street value of approximately $60 million. Nine individuals were arrested in connection with the seizures.
The last seizure took place in the northeast coast, where Operation Stonegarden participant, the Puerto Rico Police Department Joint Forces for Rapid Action (FURA, for its Spanish acronym), seized approximately 1,000 kilograms of cocaine Aug. 30.
“Air and Marine Agents consistently patrol our area to interdict smuggling operations that seek to violate our legal system,” stated Johnny Morales, Director of Air Operations at the CBP Caribbean Air and Marine Branch.
On Aug. 28, a CBP DHC-8 marine patrol aircraft detected a suspicious vessel at about 5 nautical miles north of Quebradillas. The boat, a yawl about 20 feet long and sailing without navigation lights was occupied by two men. The vessel approached the beach area of Puerto Hermina where several people were seen unloading what appeared to be contraband. Minutes later, the CBP aircraft watched as the boat took a course to the north away from the coast. Maintaining constant vigilance, CBP alerted FURA to intercept the boat arresting its two occupants, Israelin Silvestre Garcia and Juan Jose Lantiguo Nuñez, both Dominican nationals. ICE HSI agents, who arrived at the place of landing, seized 308 kilograms of cocaine. Both men had their initial hearing before a federal magistrate yesterday.
On Aug. 25, the Coast Guard intercepted a 26-foot vessel 90 nautical miles north of San Juan carrying approximately 1078 kilograms of cocaine. Three Dominican nationals, Policarpio Feliz Suero, Delios Feliz Suero and Alkuimede Melcede were arrested in connection with the seizure.
The fourth shipment, this time marijuana, occurred on Aug. 23 when a routine patrol aircraft of the Joint Task Force South spotted a fast boat about 44 nautical miles northeast of Blanquilla, Venezuela which gave the appearance of being adrift. That was when the Coast Guard Sector San Juan diverted Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier to intercept the boat. After following the international protocols 4 individuals were arrested and 1010 kilograms of marihuana seized. Those arrested are Michael Clark, Cedrick Walton and David Mallard and John Benn Jamaica, Antigua.
CCSF is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney's Office created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. CCSF is part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) that investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics utilizing the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, the Coast Guard, CBP, and PRPD's Joint Forces for Rapid Action.