SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized a go-fast vessel, 30 bales of marijuana and apprehended two smugglers following an at-sea interdiction in the Caribbean Sea Sunday morning.
Federal law enforcement authorities working in support of the Caribbean Border Interagency Group's (CBIG) Operation Caribbean Guard, interdicted the 750 pound illegal drug shipment and apprehended two men, a Jamaican national and a U.S. Citizen, claiming to be a resident of Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The illegal drug shipment is estimated to have a street value of $1.8 million.
“Our collective resolve and coordinated efforts within the Caribbean Border Interagency Group continue to deliver successful outcomes and allow us to interdict major drug shipments at sea as far from shore as possible,” said Coast Guard Capt. Drew Pearson, Sector San Juan commander. “In this case the aggressive patrolling by our partners at the Caribbean Air and Martine Branch led to our interagency success as we stand watch twenty-four seven to protect the safety and security of the citizens of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands from the threats delivered by the sea.”
While on a routine patrol Saturday night, the crew of a CBP maritime patrol aircraft detected two men aboard a suspicious go-fast vessel operating with no navigational lights and carrying suspected contraband, approximately 50 nautical miles south of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Coast Guard Sector San Juan Watchstanders, notified of the developing situation by the crew of the CBP aircraft, diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Reliance and the Coast Guard Cutter Farallon to interdict the suspect vessel.
The Reliance arrived on-scene and launched their Over the Horizon IV cutter boat to pursue and interdict the suspect vessel. Upon noticing the presence of law enforcement authorities in the area, the suspected smugglers began to maneuver aggressively in an attempt to evade interdiction and flee the scene . The Reliance ended the pursuit at 3:18a.m. Sunday, when they successfully interdicted the go-fast vessel, approximately 40 nautical miles south of Puerto Rico.
The crew of the Reliance cutter boat proceeded to board the suspect vessel, detain the two men onboard and seize the 30 bales of the suspected contraband. A further inspection and testing of the suspected drug shipment revealed the contraband to be marijuana.
The Reliance transported the 30 bales of marijuana, the two smugglers and the go-fast vessel to Ponce, located in the island's southern coast, where they transferred custody of all three to awaiting Customs and Border Protection and ICE-HSI special agents for investigation and final disposition.
The Reliance is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Kittery, Maine.
The Farallon is a 110-foot patrol boat homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.