The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon crew has offloaded nearly $20 million in seized cocaine at Coast Guard Base San Juan after it captured a crew of suspected drug smugglers about 45 nautical miles north of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico on Saturday.
Also on Tuesday, more than 5,500 pounds of cocaine — valued at about $94.6 million — made it to Miami after Coast Guard crews found the marching powder aboard a boat near Colombia.
As for the nearly 18 bales of coke found off the Puerto Rican coast — about 1,052 pounds — a Customs and Border Protection Caribbean Air and Marine Branch maritime patrol aircraft crew got suspicious when its crew spotted a vessel Saturday with three people aboard they suspected of drug trafficking. The Coast Guard Cutter Paul Clark and a Coast Guard MH-60 helicopter Jayhawk aircrew intercepted the boat and its crew of two men and one woman.
One of the suspected smugglers was injured and had to be medevaced to a hospital in Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard did not say how the person was hurt.
The nearly 18 bales they found tested positive for cocaine. The drugs are now in the custody of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and will be held to conduct prosecution, said Ricardo Castrodad, public affairs officer for Coast Guard Sector San Juan.
The three suspects, Dominican Republic nationals, face possible federal prosecution on drug trafficking criminal charges, the Coast Guard said. Department of Justice partners in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico will lead prosecution efforts.
“Stopping illegal drug trafficking vessels like the one interdicted Saturday is inherently dangerous and involves a high level of skill and risk,” said Capt. Gregory H. Magee, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan, in a news release. “These vessels represent a serious threat to the Caribbean region. The professionalism of the interdicting crews and strong partnerships with federal, local and regional law enforcement led to the apprehension of three smugglers and seizure of a major drug shipment in our shared resolve to protect the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands from this threat.”
More seizures like these can be expected, added A.J. Collazo, DEA Caribbean Division Special Agent in Charge. “This Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation is one of several cases targeting Transnational Criminal Organizations operating out of South America, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.”