SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized 3,373 pounds (1,530 kilos) of cocaine Thursday inside wooden vessel in the southern coast of the island. The estimated value of the narcotics is $42.8 million.
Near midnight Wednesday, a CBP Office of Air and Marine (OAM) Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) detected a 30 foot twin engine wooden vessel traveling north at approximately 25 knots heading directly to Puerto Rico. While under surveillance, the MPA coordinated with the CBP OAM Marine Patrol Units to intercept the vessel.
The vessel made landfall in the vicinity of Patillas, just as the CBP OAM interceptors arrived on scene. Upon landing, the three persons onboard the vessel absconded into the vegetation on shore.
Puerto Rico Police Department officers (PRPD), CBP Border Patrol agents and CBP Marine Interdiction agents searched the premises to find the three absconded suspects, to no avail.
Inside the vessel approximately 55 bales were found, filled with bricks shaped objects which were field tested and yielded positive results to cocaine. HSI Special Agents took custody of the contraband and the vessel for further investigation.
Earlier in the week, 1,774 kilos of cocaine were intercepted by federal authorities on board a Zodiac type vessel; 10 miles of the northern coast of Puerto Rico, with an estimated value $50 million.
A total of two crew members were placed under arrest. Further, a total of 61 bales of cocaine were seized with an approximate weight of 1,774.4 kilograms. Two Venezuelan men were arrested and formally charged for smuggling.
The case will be investigated as part of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF). The CCSF is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney's Office created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. CCSF is part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) that investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics using the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed of DEA, HSI, FBI, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Attorney Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and PRPD's Joint Forces for Rapid Action.
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.