Coast Guard, USS Zephyr, Caribbean Border Interagency Group partners arrest 7 smugglers, seize $2 million dollars of cocaine

August 30, 2018 – Coast Guard Cutter Yellowfin transferred four suspected smugglers and approximately one million dollars of cocaine to Ramey Sector Border Patrol Agents in Mayaguez Thursday afternoon, following the interdiction of a go-fast vessel Sunday just off Loiza, Puerto Rico.

In a separate case, Caribbean Border Interagency Group law enforcement authorities apprehended three other suspected smugglers and seized approximately one million dollars of cocaine following the interdiction of a go-fast vessel Monday off Mona Island, Puerto Rico.

The interdictions were the result of ongoing multi-agency law enforcement efforts in support of Operation Unified Resolve.

“Our collective efforts and interagency cooperation are key in stopping drug laden go-fasts from reaching Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Capt. Eric P. King, Commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “Within two days, the strong partnerships and efficient coordination within the Caribbean Border Interagency Group, along with the cooperation of augmenting Coast Guard aircraft and U.S. Navy assets, contributed to the interdiction of two drug smuggling go-fasts and seven smugglers being brought to justice.”

During Sunday’s interdiction, the crew of a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft on a routine patrol detected a suspicious 20-foot go-fast vessel transiting at night towards Puerto Rico without navigational lights, approximately 22 nautical miles off the northern coast of the island.

Watchstanders at Sector San Juan diverted the USS Zephyr and launched a Coast Guard Station San Juan 33-foot Special Purpose Craft Law—Enforcement boat to interdict the suspect vessel. As the Zephyr and Coast Guard response boat closed in on the go-fast, the crew of the Coast Guard aircraft observed the suspected smugglers jettisoning multiple packages of suspected contraband overboard. Once on scene, the crews of the Zephyr and the Coast Guard boat stopped the go-fast, approximately 12 nautical miles north of Loiza. The Zephyr embarked four men of Dominican Republic nationality from the suspect vessel. Following the interdiction, the Coast Guard aircraft vectored the Zephyr to the area of the jettisoned cargo, where the crew recovered multiple bales with a combined weight of 32.2 kilograms, 27 bricks, which tested positive for cocaine. The Zephyr destroyed the go-fast vessel as a hazard to navigation. The Coast Guard Cutter Yellowfin later rendezvoused with the Zephyr and embarked the suspected smugglers and contraband for final transport and transfer to federal law enforcement authorities in Mayaguez.

During Monday’s Interdiction, the crew of a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft detected a suspicious go-fast just off Mona Island, Puerto Rico, and they alerted U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine agents of the situation. Two CBP marine units from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico responded and intercepted the go-fast vessel. The CBP agents on scene apprehended three men and recovered approximately 33 kilograms of cocaine, 28 bricks, hidden inside a gasoline container. Two of the suspected smugglers were from the Dominican Republic, while one other was of Colombian nationality.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) assumed the prosecution and investigation of both cases.