Federal Authorities Recover and Seize 1.4 Tons of Cocaine
San Juan, Puerto Rico - Federal law enforcement authorities seized Monday 1,288 kilograms (1.4 tons) of cocaine packaged in 50 large bales that were recovered from the sea south of St. Croix.
The announcement was made today by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Coast Guard, Puerto Rico Police Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
In the late Sunday evening hours, a CBP Caribbean Air and Marine Branch surveillance aircraft detected four men aboard a suspicious vessel, approximately 50 nautical miles south of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Upon detection the persons on board started to throw items overboard.
The crew of the Coast Guard Sapelo arrived on scene and began to recover the jettisoned cargo from the water. After searching all night and the following day with the assistance of a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Borinquen, the crew of the Sapelo was able to recover 50 bales of suspected illegal contraband that had been thrown overboard from the suspect vessel. A further inspection and testing of the suspected drug shipment revealed the contraband to be cocaine.
The crew of a Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo transported the illegal drug shipment to Coast Guard Base San Juan Tuesday night, where they transferred custody to awaiting Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agents.
"This interdiction is part of CBP's continued effort to work with fellow federal, state, local, and international partners to combat individuals and criminal organizations that pose a threat to our communities," indicated Johnny Morales, Director of Air Operations for CBP's Caribbean Air and Marine Branch.
"This massive seizure of 1.4 tons of cocaine is a clear indication of the hard work and dedication that the DEA, the U.S. Coast Guard, Puerto Rico Police Department and Customs and Border Protection have in combining our resources," said Drug Enforcement Administration, Caribbean Division, Acting Special Agent in Charge Pedro Janer. "We will continue to stop these groups who think they can smuggle narcotics into Puerto Rico with flagrant disregard of our enforcement capabilities and our laws."
"The outstanding efforts and collaboration between federal law enforcement authorities are responsible for this successful disruption and seizure, which prevented a major drug shipment from reaching our shores," said Coast Guard Capt. Drew Pearson, Sector San Juan commander.
The combined federal law enforcement authorities believe that this is among the biggest drug seizures in the area for the past three years.
The Caribbean Air and Marine Branch (CAMB) is the only Federal law enforcement agency in the Caribbean Basin with integrated air and marine interdiction capabilities. It is charged with detection and interdiction of airborne and maritime smuggling and uses our organic radar facilities to detect and intercept air smuggling attempts, and airborne radar tracking aircraft to detect maritime smugglers.
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 official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.