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CBP Disrupts 2 Smuggling Attempts in Open Water

Release Date: 
December 21, 2016

AMO P-3 crew detects boats with drug loads weighing over 5,200 pounds

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations (AMO) crew was patrolling the open waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean when they detected and coordinated the interdiction of two separate attempts to smuggle cocaine.

Gofast boat
This twin engine go fast was intercepted in
the Eastern Pacific Ocean carrying drugs.

Both of these seizures occurred while the crew was conducting long-range aerial patrol and surveillance flights as part of Joint Interagency Task Force – South (JIATF South) Operation Martillo Nov. 4 and 5.  The total amount seized over the two days reached 5,247 pounds and is valued at over $68 million.

“The combined interagency efforts and partner nations’ cooperation directly impacts illicit narcotics trafficking attempts to reach U.S. shores,” said National Air Security Operations Center – Corpus Christi Director John Wassong.  “Our P-3 crews are exceptionally skilled at detecting maritime drug trafficking, and these disruptions are the result of strong partnerships as well as a mutual interest in border security.”

The AMO crew were operating a P-3 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft in the Eastern Pacific Nov. 4 when they detected two fast-moving vessels traveling side-by-side.  The crew maintained surveillance of the go-fast boats and coordinated with JIATF South to intercept the vessels with a nearby U.S. Coast Guard cutter.  

The cutter intercepted the two vessels and arrested the crew, seized both of the go-fast boats, and recovered 2,926 pounds of cocaine with an estimated wholesale value over $38 million.  The crews aboard these two boats will face charges in the United States.

The following day, the AMO P-3 AEW crew patrolling the Eastern Pacific Ocean detected a twin-engine go-fast boat with a crew of three traveling with packages.  The crew coordinated with JIATF South to intercept the vessel with a partner nation’s patrol boat.  When the patrol boat intercepted the go-fast boat, its crew began throwing their packages overboard.

The partner nation’s police arrested three crew members, seized the go-fast, and recovered 2,321 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated wholesale value of more than $30 million.  The crew aboard this vessel will face charges in the arresting country.

Go-fast boat in Eastern Pacific Ocean
AMO P-3 crew detected this vessel carrying
narcotics across the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

The P-3’s detection capabilities allow highly-trained crews to identify threats well beyond the land borders of the United States.  By providing surveillance of known air, land and maritime smuggling routes in an area that is almost 14 times the size of the continental United States, the P-3s can detect, monitor and disrupt smuggling activities before they reach U.S. shores.

Operation Martillo includes the participation of 15 nations that are working together to counter transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus.  JIATF South, headquartered in Key West, Florida, provides overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific.

During Fiscal Year 2016, CBP’s Air and Marine Operations aircrews directly contributed to 194 seizure, disruption, or interdiction incidents in the transit zone, resulting in the interdiction of over 197,677 pounds of cocaine.

Last modified: 
March 13, 2017