CBP intercepts go-fast vessel with 42 bales of cocaine off the southern coast of Vieques
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Air and Marine Agents intercepted a vessel Wednesday evening attempting to smuggle 42 bales of cocaine, totaling 2,425 pounds (1,100 kilos), with an approximated street value of $30.8 million, south of the island of Vieques; an eastern island off Puerto Rico. Two United States citizens were arrested and a two-engine vessel was seized.
Yesterday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Justo Arenas authorized a complaint charging Adalberto Rodríguez-Ortiz and Angelo Burgos-Gómez with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.
On March 18, near midnight, a Miami based CBP DHC-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) detected a vessel of approximately 40ft in length with two outboard engines and two subjects onboard, traveling northbound and without navigation lights towards the coast of Vieques. The CBP MPA maintained constant surveillance of the vessel as CBP Fajardo Marine Units were recalled to respond and intercept the vessel for further inspection.
A CBP Marine Unit reached the go-fast vessel, which failed to heave, later intercepting south of Vieques, Puerto Rico; finding two individuals on board who claimed to be US citizens, along with visible bales that later tested positive to cocaine.
“This week federal and local law enforcement worked together to intercept thousands of kilograms of cocaine before they reached our shores,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U. S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “We cannot, and will not, halt our efforts to protect our communities from the countless societal problems caused by drug trafficking.”
“Our aircraft and marine units patrol the coastal borders with the commitment to intercept criminal organizations trying to penetrate and introduce illegal narcotics,” stated Johnny Morales, Director of Air Operations for CBP’s Caribbean Air and Marine Branch (CAMB). “This interception is evidence that our persistence is fruitful.”
Custody of the defendants, the narcotics and the vessel were transferred over to Special Agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for further investigation and prosecution.
The Office of Air and Marine (OAM) is the world’s largest aviation and maritime law enforcement organization, and is a critical component of CBP’s layered enforcement strategy for border security. OAM is uniquely positioned to provide direct air and maritime support to multiple agencies and to ensure the success of border protection and law enforcement operations between ports of entry, within the maritime operating areas and within the nation’s interior.
The Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (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, US Coast Guard, US Attorney Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and PRPD's Joint Forces for Rapid Action.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos R. Cardona is in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years up to life in prison.
Criminal complaints contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty
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.