MIAMI — Crewmembers of Coast Guard Station Miami Beach, Florida, offloaded 254 kilograms of cocaine and 3,662 pounds of marijuana interdicted in the Caribbean Sea as part of Operation Martillo worth an estimated wholesale value of $11.8 million, at Base Miami Beach, Friday.
On Sept. 3, a maritime patrol aircraft reported a suspicious Panamanian flagged sailing vessel southeast of Nicaragua. Coast Guard Cutter Robert Yered arrived on scene and attempted to contact the vessel. With no response to radio calls, and the vessel not slowing down, the Robert Yered launched its smallboat with a law enforcement team and subsequently boarded the vessel after receiving permission from the Panamanian government. The boarding team discovered 254 kilograms of cocaine in a hidden compartment worth an estimated wholesale value of $8.5 million. The suspects were transferred to law enforcement authorities in Tampa, Florida on Sept. 12.
Also on Sept. 3, the Coast Guard received a report of three people clinging to a capsized vessel. The Coast Guard cutter Vigilant arrived on scene and rescued the three people from their nearly sunk boat. While on the way to the capsized vessel, the Vigilant located 68 bales of marijuana floating in the water. The Vigilant launched their smallboat crew and recovered more than 3,600 pounds of marijuana with an estimated wholesale value of $3.3 million.
"These seizures highlight the hard work and dedication of the U.S. Coast Guard and our interagency and international partners in stopping illegal drugs from reaching the streets of the U.S. and those of our Caribbean neighbors," said Lieutenant Earl Potter, Commanding Officer of the Miami based Coast Guard Cutter Robert Yered.
These two cases represent a fraction of the recent success the Coast Guard has had against maritime drug smuggling. On Saturday Sept 12, Coast Guard assets brought 24 suspected smugglers from eight maritime drug seizures to include five cases that occurred in the Eastern Pacific Ocean to Federal law enforcement authorities in Tampa, Florida, for prosecution.
"While a perfectly executed drug bust at sea is every Coast Guardsman and law enforcement officer's goal, we take great pride in knowing that these seizures will help our investigatory agencies begin to dismantle the transnational organized crime networks that wreak havoc across the Western Hemisphere," said Cmdr. Timothy Cronin, deputy chief of law enforcement for the Coast Guard 7th District.
This has been a record year for the Coast Guard. Since October 2014, the Coast Guard has removed nearly 130 metric tons of cocaine ($4.3 billion), the most since 2008. In addition, the Coast Guard and its Federal partners have brought 439 smugglers in for prosecution and seized 135 vessels, both record highs. These numbers include seizures on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
This interdiction was carried out as part of Operation Martillo, which is one component in the United States government's whole-of-government approach to countering the use of the Central American littorals as transshipment routes for illicit drugs, weapons, and cash. Operation Martillo is an international operation focused on sharing information and bringing together air, land, and maritime assets from the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and Western Hemisphere and European partner nation agencies to counter this illicit trafficking.