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CBP P-3 Leads to $97 Million Cocaine Bust

Release Date: 
November 20, 2014

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine agents aboard a P-3 Orion Long Range Tracker aircraft led Panamanian authorities to a vessel with 1,300 pounds of cocaine on Nov. 17. The estimated street value of the narcotics is over $97 million.

An OAM crew aboard a CBP P-3 aircraft detected a suspicious go-fast style vessel about 115 miles Southwest of Panama City, Panama. The P-3 aircrew alerted Panamanian law enforcement to intercept the vessel and suspected drug smugglers onboard dumped 17 bales into the water as part of efforts to evade capture.

Law enforcement recovered the narcotics and detained suspects on the vessel.

The P-3 aircraft patrolling during the operation is based at OAM's National Air Security Operations Center in Jacksonville, Florida.

“Our agents work tirelessly to disrupt transnational criminal activity,” said Director of National Air Security Operations Center – Jacksonville Doug Garner. “We have developed a strong alliance with our international partners and this seizure is just the latest example.”

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 air and sea environments in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Pacific on a year-round basis in an effort to detect, monitor and interdict illicit traffickers. Operation MARTILLO includes the participation of 14 nations that are working together to counter trans-national 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 multi-national law enforcement agencies with the interdiction of these illicit traffickers.

CBP OAM P-3s have been an integral part of the successful counter-narcotic missions operating in coordination with the Joint Interagency Task Force - South. The P-3s patrol in a 42 million-square mile area known as the Source and Transit Zone, 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 out of 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.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017