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CBP Disrupts Smuggling Attempt in Open Water

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AMO P-3 crew detects drug-laden boats with over 5,510 pounds of cocaine

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations (AMO) crew was patrolling the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Feb 27 when they detected a vessel engaged in cocaine smuggling.

The AMO crew was operating a P-3 Long Range Tracker aircraft in the Eastern Pacific as part of Joint Interagency Task Force – South’s (JIATF South) Operation Martillo, when they detected a fast-moving object consistent with a drug-running vessel. The crew maintained surveillance of the small fishing boat and coordinated an intercept with JIATF South and a nearby a U.S. Coast Guard cutter operating in the vicinity.

The AMO P-3 crew continued to observe the vessel while waiting for the USCG cutter to close in. During that time, the crew detected two additional suspect vessels in close proximity.

“Yet again, our crews delivered a setback to those involved in transnational narcotics trafficking, one blow at a time” said National Air Security Operations Center – Corpus Christi Director John Wassong. “Deploying crews to intercept drug smuggling attempts south of the U.S. border pays off tremendously.”

The Coast Guard cutter intercepted all three vessels and arrested the crew, seized the go-fast boats and recovered 1,540 pounds of cocaine. The suspected smugglers threw 3,968 pounds of cocaine overboard before the Coast Guard apprehended them. All nine suspects will face charges in the U.S.

The P-3s’ distinctive detection capabilities allow highly trained crews to identify threats well beyond the land borders of the United States. By conducting 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-3 crews detect and disrupt smuggling attempts before they reach U.S. shores.

Operation Martillo includes the participation of 15 nations that are working together to counter trans-national organized crime and illicit trafficking in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. Joint Task Force – South headquartered in Key West, Florida coordinates counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific.

In fiscal year 2016, AMO P-3 aircrews operating from Corpus Christi, Texas, and Jacksonville, Florida, directly contributed to 145 drug seizure or disruption incidents in the transit zone, resulting in the interdiction of 34,108 pounds of marijuana and 193,197 pounds of cocaine.

Last Modified: February 3, 2021