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CBP Aircrew Together with Interagency Partners Disrupt Attempt to Smuggle Thousands of Pounds of Marijuana and 12 Undocumented Migrants

Release Date: 
July 15, 2015

MIAMI— A U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Air and Marine (OAM) aircrew detected a go-fast vessel running without lights southeast of Andros Island in the Bahamas and worked with international partners to foil at attempt to smuggle thousands of pounds of marijuana early Wednesday morning.

Stacks of marijuana seized.

Stacks of marijuana seized.

The CBP crew aboard a DHC-8 maritime patrol aircraft tracked the suspicious vessel and coordinated with Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos (OPBAT) maritime law enforcement partners and Royal Bahamian Police Force (RBPF) marine units to intercept. An unknown amount of the contraband was jettisoned overboard before the interdiction.

Authorities arrested six individuals and seized approximately 5,050 pounds of marijuana concealed inside stacks of large sacks with an estimated street value of $5 million.

OPBAT is a joint partnership with the DEA, the governments of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands as well as the U.S. Coast Guard and CBP to combat drug smuggling to and from the Bahamas. In addition, OPBAT assets regularly assist with prosecuting human smuggling and search and rescue cases.

"Our crews continue to use their expertise and equipment effectively against human traffickers and narcotics smugglers in the South Florida region,” said William Gibbon, director of CBP’s Miami Air and Marine Branch. “Together with our Federal, State, and local law enforcement partners we counter these persistent threats. The dedication of our crews to detect illicit smuggling attempts and deter illegal activity out on the high seas is unparalleled.”

On Tuesday night, a CBP crew aboard a DHC-8 (commonly called a "dash 8") aircraft and interagency partners detected 12 undocumented migrants aboard vessels in two separate incidents off the coast.

The first detection was a homemade rustic vessel described as a motorized foam raft with seven undocumented migrants. CBP Miami Air and Marine Branch personnel on the aircraft notified agents from the Key West Marine Unit and U.S. Coast Guard. The second illegal maritime smuggling venture off the coast was a wooden fishing vessel with five individuals onboard.

OAM maintains an active and fully engaged cadre of coastal patrol vessels and aircraft aggressively patrolling the Florida coastline to detect and deter illegal and unsafe maritime migration.

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.

Partnership efforts and community involvement are extremely important to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s mission. If you have information about maritime smuggling or suspicious activity call 1-800-BE-ALERT (1-800-232-5378) or the after-hours toll-free number 1-800-562-5943.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017