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CBP Air and Marine P-3 Crews Disrupt Drug Smuggling Attempts Worth $800 Million Over Two Weeks

Release Date: 
June 19, 2015

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine agents and interagency partners thwarted a dozen illicit smuggling attempts over a two week period in the western Caribbean and eastern Pacific Ocean preventing the distribution of more than $824 million in illegal drugs.

A suspicious vessel detected by a CBP P-3 aircrew on June 8.

A suspicious vessel detected by a CBP P-3 aircrew on June 8.

The multi-agency operations targeted maritime drug activity occurring in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus with the P-3 aircraft patrolling based at OAM's National Air Security Operations Center in Jacksonville, Florida and Corpus Christi, Texas.

Law enforcement partners seized over 9,640 pounds of cocaine and 4,650 pounds of marijuana during twelve separate incidents between May 28 and June 10.

- 9,641 pounds of cocaine seized

- 1,212 pounds of cocaine disrupted

- 4,650 pounds of marijuana seized

- 17 arrests (multiple nationalities)

- 9 vessels seized or scuttled

A CBP P-3 aircrew supporting Operation Martillo detected a suspicious vessel in the waters northwest of Panama City, Panama on June 8. Costa Rican law enforcement personnel intercepted the go-fast boat as suspected drug smugglers began dumping bales of contraband overboard. Costa Rican authorities seized 4,333 pounds of marijuana and arrested four individuals.

A CBP P-3 aircrew tracked a suspicious vessel in open waters near Costa Rica on June 7. Suspected traffickers onboard the vessel began tossing bales into the water and Costa Rican maritime assets responded to intercept. Approximately 1,983 pounds of cocaine and 316 pounds of marijuana were dumped overboard as part of efforts to evade capture.

"Our P-3 crews are exceptionally skilled at detecting maritime drug trafficking and work in a collaborative manner with a number of law enforcement agencies and partner nations," said Director of National Air Security Operations Center - Jacksonville Robert Blanchard. "We'll continue to detect drug smuggling ventures with vigilance through our vast network of interagency partnerships."

Operation Martillo includes the participation of 15 nations that work together to counter transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking in waters along the Central American isthmus. Joint Interagency Task Force South, a National Task Force, oversees the detection and monitoring of illicit traffickers and assists U.S. and multinational law enforcement agencies with the interdiction of these illicit traffickers.

OAM P-3s have been an integral part of the successful counter-narcotic missions operating in coordination with JIATF-South. The P-3s' distinctive detection capabilities allow highly-trained crews to identify emerging threats well beyond the land borders of the U.S.  By providing surveillance of known air, land and maritime smuggling routes in an area that is twice the size of the continental U.S., the P-3s detect, monitor and disrupt smuggling activities before they reach shore.

In Fiscal Year 2014, CBP's P-3s operating from Corpus Christi, Texas, and Jacksonville, Florida, flew more than 5,900 hours in support of counternarcotic missions resulting in 135 interdiction events of suspected smuggling vessels and aircraft. These events led to the total seizure or disruption of 126,489 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of $9.47 billion.

The mission of the CBP Office of Air and Marine is to serve and protect the American people. OAM applies advanced aeronautical and maritime capabilities and employs a unique skill set to preserve America's security interests.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017