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CBP Air and Marine Operations detects go-fast vessel with 3,545 pounds of cocaine near Puerto Rico; 4 men arrested

Release Date: 
March 29, 2017

A Glock 9mm pistol and 18 rounds of 9mm ammunition were also seized during the arrests

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) detected Monday a go-fast vessel containing 3545 pounds (1,608 kilograms) of cocaine, which was intercepted 60 nautical miles southeast of Dorado, Puerto Rico. A Glock 9mm pistol and 18 rounds of 9mm ammunition were also seized during the arrests.

Bales of cocaine that were retrieved from the go-fast vessel
Bales of cocaine that were retrieved
from the go-fast vessel

U.S. Magistrate Judge Camille L. Vélez-Rivé authorized a criminal complaint charging Wilson Cuevas-Alcántara, Evelio Rivera-Jiménez, Tairo Martínez-De Rosario and Juan C. Rodríguez with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine and Possession of Cocaine.

“At the Caribbean Air and Marine Branch we work with our partners to make full use of our integrated air and marine interdiction capabilities,” stated Johnny Morales, Director of Air Operations at the CBP Caribbean Air and Marine Branch. “Air and Marine Operations is always vigilant of the Caribbean waters to detect and intercept smuggling attempts such as this one.”

On Mar. 27, a CBP DHC-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft crew detected a vessel traveling southbound without navigation lights at approximately 40 nautical miles (NM) north of Dorado, Puerto Rico.

The aircraft coordinated with a CBP Marine Interceptor Unit and a United States Coast Guard vessel to intercept. The CBP Marine Interceptor Unit initiated the interdiction of the vessel by energizing its blue lights, siren and verbal commands, but the vessel did not stop and continued at a high rate of speed of approximately 30-35 knots.

The CBP Marine Interceptor Unit fired two warning shots, but the vessel failed to heave firing six disabling rounds to the vessel engines. Two individuals were arrested onboard and the other two who had jumped overboard during the pursuit were also apprehended by members of the United States Coast Guard and Puerto Rico Police Maritime Unit.

Forty-eight bales containing 1,449 bricks of cocaine weighing approximately 1,608 kilograms were field tested and yielded positive results to cocaine. The estimated value of the cocaine is $48 million.

The case is being investigated by agents from the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF). The 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 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 using the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed of DEA, HSI, FBI, US Coast Guard, US Attorney Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and PRPD's Joint Forces for Rapid Action.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Carlos R. Cardona.

The defendants are facing terms of imprisonment from 10 years to life for the narcotics violations. Criminal complaints are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

AMO is a federal law enforcement organization dedicated to serving and protecting the American people through advanced aeronautical and maritime capabilities. AMO's specialized law enforcement capabilities allow AMO to make significant contributions to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) efforts, as well as to federal, state, local and tribal agencies. AMO conducts its mission between ports of entry, in the maritime environment and within the nation’s interior.

Last modified: 
March 29, 2017