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Coast Guard Seizes $15 Million In Illegal Drugs In The Mona Passage

SAN JUAN — The U.S. Coast Guard said the crew of the cutter Joseph Tezanos offloaded nearly $15 million in seized cocaine and transferred custody of two male smugglers at Coast Guard Base San Juan, following the interdiction of a go-fast vessel in the Mona Passage waters in the Caribbean Sea near Mona Island, Puerto Rico. 

“The interdiction resulted from multi-agency efforts in support of U.S. Southern Command’s enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere and coordination with the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF),” the US Coast Guard said. 

It said the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico is leading the prosecution for this case. 

During a routine patrol Saturday afternoon, the Coast Guard said a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft (MEA) aircrew detected two men aboard a go-fast vessel suspected of drug trafficking. 

It’s reported that the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos, was operating in the vicinity when it was diverted and responded in hot pursuit to interdict the suspect vessel.

“Shortly thereafter, cutter Joseph Tezanos arrived on scene and interdicted the go-fast vessel with the assistance of the cutter’s small boat,” it added. “The crew of cutter Joseph Tezanos embarked the suspected smugglers and located loose packages aboard the 24-foot go-fast vessel, and they also recovered packages from the water that were jettisoned from the go-fast vessel.”

In total, the US Coast Guard said the crew seized 502 packages of cocaine with a combined weight of about 1,104 pounds. 

“I directly attribute the success of this interdiction to the close interoperability that the Coast Guard has with CBP and my crew’s phenomenal performance during the pursuit, boarding and towing of the go-fast vessel,” said Lieutenant Anthony Orr, Cutter Joseph Tezanos commanding officer.

Hector Rojas, director of the Caribbean Air and Marine Branch, said: “The Caribbean Air and Marine Branch values its partnerships that result in successful seizures like this one.

“Our agents will continue to use our advanced aeronautical and maritime capabilities to detect and interdict smuggling attempts throughout our coastal borders,” he added. 

The Coast Guard said CCSF is a multi-agency Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force group operating in the District of Puerto Rico focusing on Caribbean and South American-based Transnational Criminal Organizations involved in the maritime and air smuggling shipments of narcotics from Puerto Rico to the Continental US and in the laundering of drug proceeds using bulk cash smuggling and sophisticated laundering activities. 

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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 40 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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