US Coast Guard offloads $11.7 million in cocaine, transfers 6 suspected smugglers in Puerto Rico

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SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO 04.18.2022 Photo by Ricardo Castrodad U.S. Coast Guard District 7 PADET San Juan

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Coast Guard Cutter’s Joseph Tezanos and Heriberto Hernandez crews offloaded approximately 1,289 pounds of cocaine and transferred custody of six suspected smugglers at Coast Guard Base San Juan Monday, following two separate vessel interdictions near Puerto Rico.

These interdictions are the result of multi-agency efforts involving the Caribbean Border Interagency Group and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force. The seized cocaine has an estimated wholesale value of approximately $11.7 million.

The most recent interdiction occurred during a routine patrol April 11, 2022, after the crew of a Customs and Border Protection multi-role enforcement aircraft sighted a suspect vessel in waters northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan diverted the cutter Heriberto Hernandez that arrived on scene and interdicted a 25-foot go-fast vessel. The vessel was carrying four men, Dominican Republic nationals, and six bales of suspected contraband, which tested positive for cocaine. The cutter crew apprehended the suspects and seized the contraband.

During a routine patrol April 6, 2022, the crew of a Customs and Border Protection multi-role enforcement aircraft sighted a suspect vessel north of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan diverted the cutter Joseph Tezanos that arrived on scene and interdicted a 30-foot go-fast vessel. The vessel was carrying three men, Dominican Republic nationals, and eight bales of suspected contraband, which tested positive for cocaine. The cutter crew apprehended the suspects and seized the contraband. One suspected smuggler from this group, who required medical care ashore, was medically evacuated Thursday to a hospital in Puerto Rico.

“Safeguarding the nation’s southernmost maritime border is among our top priorities,” said Capt. Gregory H. Magee, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander. “You can expect to see many more of these interdictions from the Coast Guard and from our local and federal partners as we work together to stop drug smuggling go-fast vessels from making landfall in the Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands.”

Special Agents supporting the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force received custody of the detainees and the seized contraband, and they are leading the investigation into this case. The apprehended smugglers are facing federal prosecution in Puerto Rico on criminal charges of Conspiracy to Import Controlled Substance and Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance Aboard a Vessel Subject to the Jurisdiction of the United States. The charges carry a minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment and a maximum sentence of imprisonment for life.

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