WASHINGTON: Agents from the US Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations unit detected a vessel laden with 2,000 pounds of cocaine in the Caribbean early this year, before moving in to seize the ship, four suspects aboard it, and its cargo, which had an estimated value of $30 million.
On January 2, AMO agents on a DHC-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft spotted a go-fast boat near the Dominican Republic. The airborne agents worked with the crew of the USS Zephyr to move in on the vessel.
The Zephyr, with a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment onboard, intercepted the vessel, taking four people on it into custody, and seized multiple bales that tested positive for cocaine. The operation was part of ongoing multi-agency law-enforcement efforts supporting Operation Unified Resolve and Operation Caribbean Guard.
“Air and Marine Agents engage in complex coordination to detect and stop vessels that attempt to smuggle narcotics through our coastal areas,” Johnny Morales, director of air operations at the CBP Caribbean Air and Marine branch, said in a statement.
The contraband, and the four suspects detained, were transferred to Puerto Rico, where they were taken into custody by Drug Enforcement Administration special agents. US Customs and Border Protection cocaine seizure Caribbean.
Cocaine seized by US Customs and Border Protection agents in the Caribbean, January 2, 2017. US Customs and Border Protection. The January 2 seizure is the latest major drug bust in the Caribbean.
In mid-November, AMO agents seized 328 pounds of cocaine worth $4.2 million from a vessel near Puerto Rico. That seizure was just a few weeks after AMO agents intercepted a small wooden vessel carrying 283 pounds of cocaine worth $3.6 million.
Between September and October last year, CBP agents recovered nearly 400 pounds of marijuana floating in the waters around the Florida Keys and eastern Florida.
“There has been a significant spike in drugs washing up on shore,” US Border Patrol Miami Sector division chief, Todd Bryant, said in mid-October. “This is at least partially attributable to improved partnerships across the state but potentially also to a shift in smuggling methods.”