Coast Guard, Navy Interdict Marijuana Shipment

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ARLINGTON, Va. – A U. S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment, deployed aboard the USS Elrod (FFG-55), supported a Costa Rican Coast Guard interdiction of a suspected drug smuggling vessel in the west Caribbean Sea on 3 July 2012.  While the Costa Rican Coast Guard boarded the suspect vessel and detained four suspected drug smugglers, the LEDET supported by the USS Elrod, recovered more than 4,900 pounds of marijuana, worth more than $4 million, that the smugglers had jettisoned during the interdiction. 

“The Coast Guard and Navy work closely with our partner nations everyday to interdict illegal narcotics trafficking the seas,” said Cmdr. Robert Landolfi, Tactical Law Enforcement Team South’s commanding officer.  “Joint drug busts like this show that experience working together in action.”

A Customs and Border Protection maritime patrol aircraft spotted the go-fast and the Elrod with its embarked LEDET moved to intercept.  The Elrod launched a helicopter, with a LEDET aerial precision marksman aboard.

After visual and radio signaling were ignored, the precision marksman fired warning shots. The go-fast stopped, and the persons aboard put their hands up. A Costa Rican Coast Guard vessel came alongside and took custody of the suspected smugglers and their vessel. 

The Elrod’s helicopter crew then located a debris field of jettisoned packets of various sizes.  A Coast Guard boarding team aboard the Elrod’s small boat was then launched and recovered 91 bales of marijuana.

Operation Martillo (Spanish for 'hammer') is a U.S., European, and Western Hemisphere partner nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. This joint service, interagency, and multinational operation is being led by Joint Interagency Task Force-South, a National Task Force charged with detection, monitoring, and supporting the interdiction of illicit trafficking in a 42 million square mile area primarily in the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of operations. Operation Martillo is a component of the U.S. government's coordinated interagency regional security strategy in support of the White House strategy to combat transnational organized crime and the U.S. Central America Regional Security Initiative.

U.S. maritime law enforcement and interdiction operations in the Caribbean are under the tactical control of the Seventh Coast Guard District.

LEDETs are an armed deployable specialized force under the U.S. Coast Guard’s Deployable Operations Group. They were created to support narcotics interdiction operations aboard U.S. Navy and allied warships and are capable of supporting Department of Defense national defense operations. LEDETs provide specialized law enforcement capability and maritime security capabilities to enforce U.S. laws across a full spectrum of maritime response situations, maritime security augmentation and maritime interdiction anti-piracy operations.

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