San Juan, Puerto Rico: Coast Guard, DEA, CBP agencies apprehend 3 smugglers, seize $28.5 million in cocaine

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (STL.News) – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos (WPC-1118) offloaded 2,513 pounds (1,140 kilos) of cocaine Friday and transferred custody of three suspected smugglers to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agents in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Coast Guard, DEA and Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) law enforcement authorities seized the $28.5 million dollar cocaine shipment and apprehended three men of Dominican Republic nationality, following the interdiction of a 30-foot go-fast vessel Friday night in waters north of Loiza, Puerto Rico.

This interdiction is the result of ongoing multi-agency law enforcement efforts in support of Operation Caribbean Guard, the CBIG and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF).

The suspected smugglers are facing likely federal prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico.

“This seizure highlights how effectively the Caribbean Border Interagency Group and Caribbean Corridor Strike Force work together to disrupt the flow of illicit drugs into Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Lt. Cmdr. Mario Gil, cutter Tezanos commanding officer.  “We take great pride in knowing that our collective efforts led to this significant victory in combating these transnational criminal organizations who attempt to flood our streets with crime and instability.  I am proud of my crew; their drive, skill, and teamwork were directly responsible for our success in this case.  Knowing that we kept over a ton of cocaine out of the streets of Puerto Rico is an amazing feeling!”

“We are after those transnational criminal organizations that plague our communities and endanger our youth,” said DEA Caribbean Division Special Agent in Charge A.J. Collazo.  “The DEA, the USCG, CBP, and many other federal agencies will not rest. Drug traffickers work at any given hours and so do we.”

While on a routine patrol, the crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) DHC- 8 Marine Patrol Aircraft detected a suspicious go-fast vessel Friday afternoon transiting with three people onboard and suspected contraband, approximately 50 nautical miles north of Loiza, Puerto Rico.

Coast Guard Watchstanders in Sector San Juan diverted the cutter Tezanos to interdict the go-fast.  Once on scene, the Tezanos crew launched the cutter’s Over the Horizon Boat that closed-in and stopped the suspect vessel.  The Tezanos crew embarked the suspected smugglers, seized 38 bales of contraband that tested positive for cocaine, and destroyed the go-fast as a danger to navigation.

DEA Special Agents assigned to CCSF, who are leading the investigation into this case, received custody of the detainees and seized contraband.