Coast Guard Seizes Cocaine, Three Suspected Smugglers, Off STX

Crew members of Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez, in protective gear, on Tuesday offload more than 200 kilograms of cocaine, valued at over $5.6 million, in Puerto Rico. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The U.S. Coast Guard on Tuesday transferred $5.6 million in seized cocaine and three suspected smugglers to federal agents at Coast Guard Base San Juan, after the interdiction of a drug smuggling vessel off St. Croix.

In a news release issued Wednesday, the U.S. Coast Guard said the suspected smugglers are three men – one Venezuelan and two from the Dominican Republic – who now face criminal charges by Department of Justice prosecution partners in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico.

The action at sea occurred during the afternoon of Feb. 23 after the aircrew of a Customs and Border Protection Caribbean Air and Marine Branch maritime patrol aircraft detected a suspicious go-fast vessel in international waters southeast of St. Croix.

More than 200 kilograms of cocaine, valued at $5.6 million, is stacked on the U.S. Coast Guard pier in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Tuesday. The cocaine was seized on Feb. 23 southeast of St. Croix. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon diverted to intercept the go-fast vessel with the assistance of the cutter’s small boat. Following the interdiction, Richard Dixon’s boarding team located and seized more than 200 kilograms of cocaine.

The crew of the cutter Richard Dixon embarked on the three men and seized contraband from the go-fast vessel and later transferred them to the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez for transport and offload in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where federal agents took them into custody.

Cutters Richard Dixon and Heriberto Hernandez are 154-foot fast response cutters home-ported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

A crew member from Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez on Tuesday offloads a bundle of cocaine seized on Feb. 23 at sea off the coast of St Croix, part of a 200-kilogram drug seizure. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The Coast Guard news release said the interdiction resulted from multiagency efforts in support of U.S. Southern Command’s enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area programs and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force.

“This interdiction was the result of great teamwork from beginning to end with our interagency partners,” said Lt. Peter Kelly, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon. “I am extremely proud of the execution of the Richard Dixon crew in what was not an easy mission, and we are pleased to have kept such a large amount of cocaine from reaching U.S. streets.”