CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Air and Marine agents worked with international partners to disrupt a cocaine smuggling attempt worth more than $140 million on March 12.
The crew of a Corpus Christi-based P-3 Long Range Tracker detected a suspicious vessel in waters north of Colon, Panama. Agents contacted Panamanian authorities for intercept. The aircrew maintained surveillance during the at-sea boarding. Maritime assets intercepted the vessel, detained 9 individuals and recovered $20,000 and1,873 pounds of cocaine.
“Collaborative efforts are key to dismantling illegal trafficking organizations,” said NASOC-CC Director John Wassong.
Under the international counter-illicit trafficking initiative called Operation Martillo, U.S. military and law enforcement agencies and regional partner nations’ military and law enforcement agencies patrol the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Pacific on a year-round basis.
Operation Martillo includes the participation of 15 nations that work together to counter transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. Joint Interagency Task Force South, a National Task Force, oversees the detection and monitoring of illicit traffickers and assists U.S. and multinational law enforcement agencies with the interdiction of these illicit traffickers.
OAM P-3s have been an integral part of the successful counter-narcotic missions operating in coordination with the JIATF South. The P-3s patrol in a 42 million-square mile area which includes more than 41 nations, the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and seaboard approaches to the United States.
In Fiscal Year 2014, CBP's P-3s operating from Corpus Christi, Texas, and Jacksonville, Florida, flew more than 5,900 hours in support of counternarcotic missions resulting in 135 interdiction events of suspected smuggling vessels and aircraft. These events led to the total seizure or disruption of 126,489 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of $9.47 billion.
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.