San Juan, Puerto Rico - Federal law enforcement authorities under the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) arrested two smugglers, seized a go-fast vessel and a 22-bale of cocaine shipment, totaling 660 kilos (1,452 pounds) in waters south of Puerto Rico Tuesday morning.
The estimated value of the contraband is over $16.5 million.
Near midnight Monday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents on a routine patrol on board a CBP DCH-8 marine surveillance aircraft detected two men aboard a suspicious 30-foot go-fast vessel with two outboard engines adrift and multiple bales of suspected contraband onboard, approximately 55 nautical miles south of the town of Salinas, in the southern coast of Puerto Rico.
The CBP aircraft notified CBP midnight marine units and U.S. Coast Guard Watch-standers in San Juan to interdict the suspect vessel.
A USCG 33-foot Special Purpose Craft/Law Enforcement arrived on the scene Tuesday morning and interdicted the go-fast vessel that had become adrift after running out of fuel. The Coast Guard Cutter Reef Shark and CBP marine unit arrived on scene shortly thereafter.
A Coast Guard boarding team from the Reef Shark located the cocaine shipment sitting in plain view aboard the go-fast vessel and proceeded to embark and detain the suspected smugglers along with the 22-bale cocaine shipment. A field test revealed that the contraband was cocaine.
The contraband and smugglers were transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents for further processing.
The two suspects, Alexander Urrutia, a U.S. Citizen from Puerto Rico and Dioni Rijo a citizen of the Dominican Republic, were arrested and face federal drug smuggling charges.
CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA, for its Spanish acronym), in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.