CBP, HSI Discover Narcotics Smuggling Ventures
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and special agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), seized a total of 6.04 kg (13.3 pounds) of heroin and 5.14 kg (11.3 pounds) of cocaine hidden in vehicles arriving from the Dominican Republic at the San Juan Seaport in separate incidents this previous weekend.
Last Friday, during inbound inspections of passenger vehicles arriving from the Dominican Republic onboard the M/V "Caribbean Fantasy" ferry, a CBP canine alerted to the potential presence of narcotics in a van with Puerto Rico cargo license plates. An x-ray of the vehicle confirmed the alert to CBP officers.
After a thorough search, CBP officers found 199 pellets of cocaine with a weight of approximately 2.8 kilos (6.2 pounds) inside the vehicle.
CBP officers arrested the vehicle's driver, Luis Cordero-Abreu, 36, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and transferred custody of the vehicle and the narcotics to ICE HSI special agents, who subsequently arrested Miguel Espinosa-Garcia, another individual allegedly involved in the smuggling venture.
On Monday May 13, inspection of three separate vehicles alerted positive to narcotics and after further search, CBP officers found 3.37 kg (7.68 pounds) of heroin, 2.37 kg (5.03 pounds) of cocaine, and 2.67 kg (5.14 pounds) of heroin, respectively, inside the vehicles.
CBP officers proceeded to arrest the drivers of each vehicle: Francisco Diaz Feliz, 53, and Rafael De La Cruz, 61, both Dominican Republic nationals and US citizen Scott Wesley Purdy, 45. Additional subjects arrested by ICE HSI special agents, allegedly involved in the smuggling venture were: Josel Fijos Agustin, 42, and Roberto Rodriguez Lopez, 47.
ICE HSI is leading the investigation and presented charges against the individuals for consideration by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico. Assistant United States Attorney Justin Martin accepted prosecution on all cases.
"We have stepped up our inspection of aircraft and maritime vessels through a risk-management based, layered enforcement approach closing routes for smugglers," indicated Marcelino Borges, director of Field Operations for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"These arrests and seizures should send a message to those individuals who think they can use our ports of entry to smuggle contraband from abroad," said said Angel Melendez, special agent in charge for HSI Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.
CBP uses sophisticated methods to identify and target potentially high-risk passengers and cargo, including advanced electronic information about every passenger and cargo shipment entering into the U.S. before their arrival.
CBP's dual mission is to facilitate travel in the United States while we secure our borders, our people and our visitors from those that would do us harm like terrorists and terrorist weapons, criminals, and contraband. CBP officers are charged with enforcing not only immigration and customs laws, but they enforce over 400 laws for 40 other agencies and have stopped thousands of violators of U.S. law.
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.