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CBP Spots Speedboat Carrying $242 Million in Cocaine

Release Date: 
April 23, 2013

JACKSONVILLE, FLA.—A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine crew patrolling the open waters near Panama City, Panama spotted a speedboat carrying four suspects, fuel barrels and more than 3,300 lbs. of pure cocaine April 20, which has an estimated value of more than $242 million.

The CBP crew was aboard a P-3 aircraft flying over the Gulf of Uraba as part of the Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATFS) Operation Martillo, when they detected a speed boat with a small radar signature traveling at a high rate of speed. The crew was able to see the four suspects, fuel barrels and multiple packages aboard the vessel.

The crew notified Panama law enforcement and vectored three Panamanian interceptors to the vessel's location. After Panamanian law enforcement fired warning shots, the vessel stopped and the crew, all claiming Colombian citizenship, was arrested and their boat seized.

"Our air crew agents are protecting our nation's borders by actively patrolling the open waters of the Western Caribbean and Eastern Pacific as part of Operation Martillo," said Douglas Garner, director of National Air Security Operations Center in Florida. "This year, P-3 operations in Corpus Christi, Texas and Jacksonville, Fla. assisted in either the seizure or disruption of more than 54,000 lbs. of cocaine, which is more than $4 billion denied to transnational criminal organizations."

CBP P-3s have been an integral part of the successful counter-narcotic missions operating in coordination with JIATFS. The P-3s fly a six million square mile area known as the Source and Transit Zone which is twice the size of the continental U.S. The P-3s' distinctive detection capabilities allow highly-trained crews to identify emerging threats well beyond the land borders of the U.S. in support of a "Defense in Depth" key CBP strategic goal.

The Joint Interagency Task Force -South is a National Drug Task Force under U.S. Southern Command that facilitates U.S. and partner nation law enforcement interdiction efforts against illicit trafficking in support of national and regional security.

Operation Martillo is designed to stop the flow of illicit trafficking through Central America and its Pacific and Caribbean coasts by disrupting transnational criminal organization's use of coastlines to ferry narcotics. Since its inception on January 15, 2012, Operation Martillo has resulted in the apprehension of more than 400 individuals, the seizure of nearly 200 metric tons of cocaine and the seizure or destruction of more than 100 vessels and aircraft.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017