U.S. Coast Guard Nets $30M Worth of Cocaine, Three Smugglers Off St. Thomas
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — United States Coast Guard and Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) crews seized $30 million worth of cocaine and apprehended three smugglers this week, authorities said.
The Coast Guard said it seized an estimated 2,606 pounds of cocaine during an exercise in international waters off the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Tuesday morning.
While on routine patrol, the crew of a HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft from Air Station Miami detected a suspicious go-fast boat Monday afternoon with three people on board, approximately 65 nautical miles north of San Juan, according to officials.
The go-fast kept going past sunset and into the night without using navigational lights.
Authorities were able to close in on the boat about 95 nautical miles northeast of St. Thomas, officials said. Coast Guard crews found 52 bales of cocaine on board.
The suspected smugglers claimed to be Dominican Republic nationals and are facing likely federal prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office here.
The go-fast boat was later destroyed as “a hazard to navigation,” officials said. The suspect smugglers and cocaine were transported to St. Thomas, where they’re in the custody of DEA Special Agents.
“This case was a team effort and perfect example of Caribbean Border Interagency Group partners working in coordination with Joint Interagency Task Force – East to protect the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Lt. Cmdr. Mario Gil, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos. “This case involved a high speed chase of over 10 hours in challenging weather conditions that was possible thanks to the tenacity and persistence of the Tezano’s crew and of our partners, who are proud to have completed the mission and prevented a large quantity of drugs from reaching the streets.”