ARLINGTON, Va. - A San Diego-based Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) deployed aboard the HMCS Ottawa transferred more than 2,300 pounds of cocaine, wholesale value worth more than $29 million dollars, four suspected smugglers and the Costa Rican flagged fishing vessel Capitan Erson to the Costa Rican Coast Guard for prosecution Nov. 30.
The Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team's LEDET seized the cocaine from the fishing vessel Capitan Erson in international waters southeast of Isla de Coco, Costa Rica, in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Nov. 28, during counter transnational organized crime (CTOC) operations in support of Operation Martillo.
A Customs and Border Protection Maritime Patrol Aircraft sighted the suspicious fishing vessel and relayed the position to the HMCS Ottawa which moved to in intercept the vessel and investigate.
LEDET personnel boarded the Capitan Erson and discovered 36 bales of a substance that tested positive for cocaine. The LEDET took positive control of the fishing vessel and the four detainees who were kept aboard the fishing vessel.
"Working with our allies from Canada affords us the opportunity to help stem the flow of narcotics bound for North America through littorals in the Pacific and Caribbean that transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) use for illicit trafficking," said Cmdr. Jon Totte, PACTACLET Commanding Officer. "The Coast Guard had been deploying LEDETs to Canadian warships for several years. The officers and crew of those ships are outstanding sailors who are extremely proficient in the detection and monitoring of suspect vessels which is critical in supporting the job of the U.S. Coast Guard LEDETs."
Since Oct. 1, Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Teams have stopped more than 5,984 pounds of cocaine, 551 pounds of marijuana and detained 39 suspected smugglers in fiscal year 2013.
The HMCS Ottawa is homeported in Esquimalt, British Columbia, and is currently deployed in support of Operation Martillo.
Overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific is managed by Joint Interagency Task Force, South headquartered in Key West, Fla. U.S. maritime law enforcement and interdiction operations in the Pacific Ocean are under the tactical control of the Eleventh Coast Guard District in Alameda, Calif.
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.