Federal Autorities Sieze $34 Million In Cocaine, Detain Three Smugglers In Caribbean
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Coast Guard and U.S. law enforcement partners seized approximately 1,155 kilograms of cocaine (approximately 2,546 pounds), a go-fast vessel and detained three suspected smugglers, during an at-sea interdiction Friday in the Caribbean Sea south of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The drug shipment is estimated to have a wholesale value of more than $34 million dollars.
On Saturday, October 19, U.S. Magistrate Judge Camille Vélez-Rivé authorized a complaint charging: Allan Hasani Greenidge, Ángel Luis Rivera-Montañez and Ángel Ribot-Aguiar with possession with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine. The defendants remain in custody. Tomorrow they will have their detention hearing at 1:30 pm.
The interdiction was a result of a multi-agency law enforcement effort in support of the Coast Guard’s Operation Unified Resolve, the Caribbean Border Interagency Group’s (CBIG) Operation Caribbean Guard, and the U.S. Department of Justice Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF).
“These arrests and multi-kilogram seizure are a clear indication of the success of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force Initiative,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “The US Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement counterparts remain committed to using every law enforcement tool available to attack these criminal organizations and ensure that drug traffickers and their associates are brought to justice for the damage they inflict on our communities.”
“Interdicting drug smugglers at sea in the middle of the night is a complex and dangerous operation only possible through the resolve of federal and regional law enforcement authorities committed to safeguarding Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands from the threats that come from the sea,” said Capt. Drew W. Pearson, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “We will continue our aggressive patrol efforts with our interagency partners to interdict these major drug shipments as far from shore as possible and bring those responsible to justice.”
The crew of a patrolling fixed-wing HC-144 Ocean Sentry maritime patrol aircraft from Air Station Miami detected a suspicious 30-foot go-fast vessel Thursday night. The vessel was spotted carrying three suspected smugglers and what appeared to be multiple bales of suspected contraband.
Coast Guard watchstanders at Sector San Juan diverted a Coast Guard 33-foot Special Purpose Craft Law Enforcement (SPC-LE) pursuit boat from Boat Station San Juan and the Coast Guard Cutter Drummond to interdict the suspect vessel. A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) marine unit also responded upon being alerted.
A CBP dash-8 marine surveillance aircraft relieved the Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry and vectored in the Coast Guard 33-foot SPC/LE to interdict the go-fast. The suspected smugglers became compliant as the Coast Guard pursuit boat came alongside the suspect vessel. The crew of the Coast Guard SPC-LE pursuit boat proceeded to board the suspect vessel, detain the three men onboard and seize 25 bales of suspected contraband. The Coast Guard Cutter Drummond arrived on scene shortly thereafter and embarked the detainees and suspected contraband for transport to Puerto Rico. A test revealed the suspected contraband to be cocaine.
The crew of the Drummond transferred the detainees and the cocaine to CBP officers, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agents in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Since Sept. 2012, Coast Guard alongside CBIG law enforcement agencies under Operation Caribbean Guard have seized 27,650 kilograms of cocaine, in partnership with regional law enforcement authorities in the Caribbean. The wholesale value for these seizures is worth more than $829 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, its DHS, 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.
CCSF is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney's Office created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. CCSF is part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) 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 HSI, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, the Coast Guard, CBP and PRPD's Joint Forces for Rapid Action.
The CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action, in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.
The Coast Guard Cutter Drummond is a 110-foot island class patrol boat homeported in San Juan.