$5 Million Cocaine Shipment Seized in DEA Led Operation
APR 16 -- St. Thomas, USVI - DEA St. Thomas HIDTA Task Force along with the DEA Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF) seized approximately 250 kilograms of cocaine and arrested two suspected Grenadian drug smugglers, following the law enforcement boarding of the sailing vessel Laurel in Virgin Island waters on Tuesday, United States Attorney Ronald W. Sharpe and Special Agent in Charge Javier F. Peña, of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Caribbean Division announced today.
“The illicit trafficking of cocaine and the violence associated with its distribution, sale and use threatens the safety of every person in the Virgin Islands.” Sharpe said. “Therefore, it is critical that law enforcement disrupt drug traffickers’ delivery networks, seize their illegal products and prosecute all those involved in these criminal endeavors.”
“The Drug Enforcement Administration continues to aggressively purse maritime drug smugglers in the Caribbean” said Javier F. Peña, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in the Caribbean. “Through DEA’s Caribbean Corridor Strike Force we continue to identify and investigate those maritime drug traffickers infesting our regional seas with their poisonous cargo”
Details of the drug busting interdiction are as follows:
The crews of a Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Dash-8 aircraft detected the sailing vessel Laurel Monday, after a tactical response request by the DEA St. Thomas HIDTA Task Force. Vessel Laurel was traveling north from Grenada in international waters east of the British Virgin Islands. The Coast Guard Cutter Reef Shark diverted and intercepted the 54-foot sailing vessel, approximately 17 nautical miles east of British Virgin Islands’ Virgin Gorda.
The Coast Guard Cutter Farallon later arrived on scene and escorted the Laurel to Saint Thomas, where a multi-agency boarding of the sailing vessel was conducted by Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection law enforcement personnel. As a result of the inspection, the boarding teams recovered 250 square brick-like packages located in a hidden compartment inside the hull of the vessel. The bricks were field tested and yielded positive as cocaine.
On Tuesday Coast Guard law enforcement personnel detained the two Laurel crew members aboard the sailing vessel, where Drug Enforcement Administration agents of the St. Thomas HIDTA Task Force arrested them and took them into custody along with the drug shipment onboard. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the U.S. Virgin Islands and DOJ components agreed to prosecute the two suspected smugglers of the cocaine shipment estimated to have a street value of approximately $ 5 million dollars.
This investigation is being handled by the DEA St. Thomas HIDTA Task Force. The DEA St Thomas HIDTA Task Force investigates drug trafficking activities, both domestic and international. This DEA HIDTA Task Force targets the hierarchy of traditional organized crime and focuses on dismantling and disrupting the flow of drugs through the territory. This HIDTA Task Force is led by DEA, and in addition, is comprised by US Attorneys Office, Virgin Islands Police, U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the IRS and the FBI.
The DEA Caribbean Corridor Strike Force investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics utilizing the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The DEA Caribbean Corridor Strike Force is led by the DEA and, in addition, is comprised of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and the FBI.
Coast Guard Cutter’s Reef Shark and Farallon are 87-foot and 110-foot patrol boats respectively, home ported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
This joint investigation is ongoing.