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Coast Guard Arrests Four, Seizes 3,545 Pounds of Cocaine

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez salute for a photo off the coast of Key West, Fla., Sep. 10, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Barney)
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez salute for a photo off the coast of Key West, Fla., Sep. 10, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Barney)

Law-enforcement officials say they seized more than 3,545 pounds of cocaine from a drug-smuggling vessel off the coast of Puerto Rico earlier this week.

According to a report from the U.S. Coast Guard, that agency -- along with Border Protection and Puerto Rico Police maritime law-enforcement units -- intercepted and seized the drugs off the coast of Rio Grande on Monday. Four alleged smugglers also were arrested, the Coast Guard said.

The suspected smugglers were turned over to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico, according to the Coast Guard report.

Coast Guard officials say the crew of a Customs and Border Protection maritime patrol aircraft detected a 35-foot "go-fast" vessel in the dark and not using navigational lights off Dorado on Sunday night. The Coast Guard responded by diverting a Coast Guard 33-foot response boat and the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez to catch up to the suspect vessel. An HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft assisted with aerial surveillance, too, and Customs and Border Protection and Puerto Rico Police marine units also responded, according to the report.

The law-enforcement boats then engaged in a high-speed pursuit of the alleged smuggling vessel, and it was intercepted off the coast of Rio Grande, according Coast Guard officials.

Two of the suspected smugglers were arrested aboard the drug-smuggling craft, while two others, who jumped overboard during the chase, were picked up and then arrested, according to the report.

In all, the report states, 48 bales containing 1,449 bricks of cocaine -- weighing about 3,545 pounds (1,608 kilograms) -- were field-tested and gave positive results for cocaine.

"These arrests are a clear indication of the continued success of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force," stated Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez, U.S. attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, in the Coast Guard report. "This is just another example of the fine work our state and federal law-enforcement partners accomplish every day. With the continued collaboration and assistance of our law enforcement partners, we will continue our efforts to bring the most powerful and prolific drug organizations to justice."

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