Coast Guard nabs 2 smugglers, seizes contraband during an at-sea interdiction in the Caribbean

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Dependable, Over the Horizon small boat, interdicts a 20-foot drug smuggling vessel in the Caribbean Sea Dec. 10, 2014.  The interdiction resulted in the seizure of 71 pounds of cocaine and the apprehension of two smugglers. The interdiction was a result of a multi-agency law enforcement effort in support of Operation Caribbean Guard and Coast Guard Operation Unified Resolve.  (Photo courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Reef Shark, transferred custody of two suspected smugglers and 71 pounds of cocaine Saturday, worth an estimated $800,000 wholesale value, seized in a multi-agency law enforcement effort in support of Operation Caribbean Guard and Coast Guard Operation Unified Resolve.

Early Wednesday morning a JIATF-S fixed-wing marine surveillance aircraft detected a suspicious 20-foot go-fast vessel with two people aboard transitting the area without the use of their navigational lights.

Coast Guard watchstanders at Sector San Juan diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Dependable to interdict the suspect vessel. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Air and Marine Operations DHC-8 maritime patrol aircraft, also tasked to respond, situated the suspect vessel and maintained surveillance as the Dependable arrived on scene.

Once on scene, the Dependable deployed their Over the Horizon small boat and observed the suspected smugglers jettisoning multiple packages overboard during the pursuit. The small-boat crew employed warning shots and disabling fire, stopping the vessel and recovering one of the jettisoned bales from the water.

The Dependable later rendezvoused with the cutter Reef Shark and transferred the suspected smugglers and the cocaine for transport to DEA agents in Puerto Rico.

“Dependable’s crew performed exceptionally throughout this interdiction, which required all hands to perform,” said Cmdr. Paul Gregg, Coast Guard Cutter Dependable commanding officer. “Their performance was not just a testament to their own skill, but to the Coast Guard’s dedication to and development of the tactics, training, and procedures necessary to safely perform these missions.”

Since September 2012, the Coast Guard, in partnership with regional law enforcement authorities and international partners in the Caribbean, seized over 25,500 kilograms of cocaine and 8,000 pounds of marijuana during multiple law enforcement at-sea interdictions under Operation Unified Resolve. The wholesale value for these seizures is worth more than $640 million.

The Coast Guard’s efforts during 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.

The Coast Guard Cutter Dependable is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter home-ported in Cape May, N.J.