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The Caribbean Corridor Strike Force Seized More Than 3,500 Pounds of Marijuana and Detained Five Suspected Smugglers during a Drug Interdiction in the Caribbean Sea

– The Coast Guard seized more than 3,500 pounds of marijuana with an estimated wholesale value of $3.5 million and detained five suspected smugglers during  a drug interdiction in the Caribbean Sea, Southwest of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico.

Michael Dacosta, Shawn A. Ally, Nolan E. Connelly, Ron D. Griffith, and Owen K. Drakes were charged in a complaint authorized by Magistrate Judge Silvia Carreño-Coll on July 17, for conspiracy to possess a controlled substance on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Defendants continue detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

3,591 pounds of Marijuana Seized.

3,591 pounds of Marijuana Seized.

While on patrol July 8, the Coast Guard Cutter Northland detected the suspicious 68-foot motor vessel An-Nur transiting the Caribbean Sea with five crewmembers onboard.  Northland’s boarding team discovered 3,591 pounds of marijuana onboard. The Northland crew seized the marijuana, detained the crew, and took the An-Nur in tow.

“The strong international, federal and local law enforcement partnerships in our area have again proven their effectiveness in preventing drug shipments from reaching Caribbean shores,” said Capt. Robert Warren, commander of the Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “We are committed to disrupting the flow of illegal drugs in the Caribbean Sea and will continue to aggressively pursue and prosecute suspected smugglers.”

The Northland transferred the illegal drug shipment, the vessel, and detainees to the custody of Customs and Border Protection and Federal Bureau of Investigation special agents, who will be leading a criminal investigation into the case as part of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force.

“Once again the combined efforts of federal law enforcement agencies resulted in the seizure of millions of dollars’ worth of narcotics. Our message continues to be the same: we will detect and interdict drug smugglers attempting to flood our island with their poisonous cargo,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “These arrests are a clear indication of the continued success of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force.”

Since October 2013, the Coast Guard has seized 17,591 kilograms of cocaine and 4,341 pounds of marijuana during 25 counter-drug interdictions under Operation Unified Resolve, in partnership with regional law enforcement authorities in the Caribbean. The wholesale value for these seizures is worth more than $444 million.

The Coast Guard’s efforts under Operation Unified Resolve contribute to the interagency results being achieved each and every day locally under Operation Caribbean Guard, which coordinates efforts between the Coast Guard, DHS and Commonwealth and Territorial law enforcement partners, who are working diligently to deter, detect and disrupt illicit maritime trafficking to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office created the CCSF to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. CCSF is part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force that investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics using the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigation the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, the Coast Guard, CBP and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces for Rapid Action.

The Coast Guard Cutter Northland is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Portsmouth, Va.

The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Glenn Goetchius.

The defendants are facing terms of imprisonment from 10 years to life for the narcotics violations. Criminal complaints are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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