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CBP Air and Marine Operations Aircrews Based in Jacksonville Detect Vessel with $31 Million in Cocaine

Release Date: 
June 2, 2017

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations (AMO) aircrew detected a go-fast vessel loaded with more than 2,425 pounds of cocaine off the coast of Panama City recently. The estimated wholesale value of the drugs is approximately $31.6 million.

An AMO crew aboard a P-3 Airborne Early Warning Aircraft used sophisticated air surveillance equipment to detect the suspicious vessel and coordinated with interagency partners to interdict the suspected transnational narcotics traffickers. The crew maintained surveillance of the vessel and coordinated an intercept with Joint Interagency Task Force – South and a nearby U.S. Coast Guard cutter.

The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted the vessel and arrested three Colombian nationals onboard. The vessel was sunk as a hazard to navigation.

CBP's Air and Marine Operations detect suspected traffickers
CBP's Air and Marine Operations detect
suspected traffickers

“Extremely successful multi-layered joint operations with a variety of federal, state and local partners keeping tons of illicit drugs from reaching the United States is what we do,” said Robert Blanchard, Director, Air Operations, National Air Security Operations Center - Jacksonville. “CBP's Air and Marine Operations lends critical capabilities and cohesion to an array of border security and maritime law enforcement efforts.”

The latest interdiction is part of Operation Martillo (Spanish for 'hammer') targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. The international operation includes the participation of 17 countries committed to a regional approach against transnational organized crime moving illicit cargo. Operation Martillo is coordinated by JIATF South, a component of U.S. Southern Command, focused on sharing information and bringing together air, land and maritime assets from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as Western Hemisphere and European partner nation agencies, to counter illicit trafficking.

CBP's Air and Marine Operations is a federal law enforcement organization dedicated to serving and protecting the American people through advanced aeronautical and maritime capabilities. Air and Marine Operations 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 and Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands, Air and Marine Operations serves as the nation’s experts in airborne and maritime law enforcement.

In Fiscal Year 2016, Air and Marine Operations enforcement actions resulted in the approximate seizure or disruption of 221,707 pounds of cocaine; 654,891 pounds of marijuana; 3,881 pounds of methamphetamine; 940 weapons and $35.7 million; 4,303 arrests and 55,923 apprehensions of illegal aliens.

For breaking news and regional updates on U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations follow @CustomsBorder @CBPFlorida and @CBPCaribbean on Twitter.

Last modified: 
September 13, 2018