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Record Year For Cocaine Seizures By The U.S. Coast Guard, $11.8M Pulled From Ocean This Weekend

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MIAMI – At least 4,000 pounds of recently-seized drugs, worth some $11 million, was offloaded Friday by the Coast Guard at its base in Miami Beach.

According to the Coast Guard, the 559 pounds of cocaine and 3,662 pounds of marijuana were confiscated during two separate seizures earlier this month as part of the ongoing Operation Martillo which means “Operation Hammer” in English.

At least eight bales of marijuana washed ashore Thursday near the Martin and Palm Beach County boundary line, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.

At least eight bales of marijuana washed ashore Thursday near the Martin and Palm Beach County boundary line, according to the U.S. Border Patrol’s Adam Sacasa.

“That’s $11 million dollars worth of drugs that won’t reach the streets of New York, Chicago, Miami or the Central Caribbean,” Cmdr. Timothy Cronin, deputy chief of law enforcement for the Coast Guard’s 7th District, told reporters near a dock stacked with bales of bundled marijuana and cocaine.

The cocaine was seized on Sept. 3 southeast of Nicaragua after a maritime patrol aircraft spotted a suspicious Panamanian-flagged vessel, officials said. A boarding team from the Coast Guard Cutter Robert Yered found the cocaine, with a wholesale value of $8.5 million, in a hidden compartment, the agency said.

The two people aboard the vessel were taken into custody in Tampa on Sept. 12.

Also on Sept. 3, the Coast Guard received a report of three people clinging to a capsized vessel off the coast of Jamaica, the agency said. The Coast Guard says the cutter Vigilant arrived at the scene and rescued the three people. While heading toward the capsized boat, crew members found 68 bales of marijuana floating in the water.

The marijuana has an estimated wholesale value of $3.3 million, according to the Coast Guard.

“Operation Martillo” is part of the U.S. government’s strategy to deter Central American shipment routes for illegal drugs, weapons and cash.

On Friday, Sept. 18, 2015, crewmembers of Coast Guard Station Miami Beach offloaded 254 kilograms of cocaine and 3,662 pounds of marijuana interdicted in the Caribbean Sea as part of Operation  Martillo worth an estimated wholesale value of $11.8 million, at Base Miami Beach.

The Coast Guard says 2015 has been a record year for seizing cocaine, suspected smugglers and their vessels. Since October 2014, nearly 130 metric tons of cocaine, worth an estimated $4.3 billion have been confiscated, 439 suspected smugglers have been turned over to prosecutors and 135 vessels have been seized, the agency said.

“We all know what drugs can do to young children and people, we see it every day in hospitals and rehab centers and prisons and we have to get after that,” Cronin said.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 50 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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