NORFOLK, Va. — The Hampton Roads-based multi-agency Border Enforcement Security Task Force has seized approximately 35 kilograms of cocaine at the Port of Norfolk in the past two weeks in separate drug smuggling ventures.
The Hampton Roads Border Enforcement Security Taskforce is comprised of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard and other law enforcement partners.
In the first seizure, which occurred July 27, the task force seized 32 kilograms of cocaine off of a vessel arriving into the Port of Norfolk. Prior to the vessel arriving in Hampton Roads, HSI special agents, Customs and Border Protection officers, and Coast Guardsmen boarded the vessel and discovered the cocaine hidden in one of the vessel cargo holds. The cocaine, which has an estimated street value of about $1 million, is believed to have come from Colombia and was destined for Europe. None of the crewmembers were suspected of being involved and no arrests were made.
A second seizure occurred Aug. 4 when the task force seized three kilograms of cocaine. The narcotics were taken off of a container vessel that was due into Hampton Roads. This seizure resulted in the arrest of two individuals, neither of whom were ship crewmembers. This investigation is ongoing.
"These enforcement actions demonstrate that law enforcement agencies working together under the auspices of the BEST, are positioned to disrupt and dismantle smuggling organizations' efforts to bring their illicit goods into the United States," said John P. Torres, special agent in charge of HSI. "The Hampton Roads BEST is host to Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard with other federal, state and local law enforcement partners to bring together the strengths of each agency into one united front."
"I am very proud of the work of my officers and the BEST," said Mark J. Laria, CBP area port director. "This seizure is further evidence of how the law enforcement authorities in Hampton Roads can quickly pull together as a team to protect the citizens of Hampton Roads and the country."
The Hampton Roads Border Enforcement Security Taskforce was formed in July 2011 and is comprised of officers and agents from ten federal, state and local agencies. Team members are responsible for identifying, interdicting and investigating a wide variety of maritime-related crime including trade fraud, cargo theft and the illegal smuggling of drugs, persons, currency and weapons.