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Contraband
04/02/2014

HSI, Caribbean Corridor Strike Force seize $50 million worth of cocaine, arrest 2

HSI, Caribbean Corridor Strike Force seize $50 million worth of cocaine, arrest 2
HSI, Caribbean Corridor Strike Force seize $50 million worth of cocaine, arrest 2

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), working jointly with the Caribbean Border Corridor Strike Force (CCSF) seized Monday 1774 kilograms of cocaine near Dorado and arrested two Venezuelan nationals for drug trafficking. The seized contraband has an estimated street value of $50 million.

On March 31, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) marine patrol aircraft detected a suspicious Zodiac-type vessel 15 miles off the north coast of Dorado. While under surveillance, the patrol aircraft coordinated with CBP marine units to intercept the Zodiac. Upon noticing the presence of law enforcement, the two occupants of the suspicious vessel, Reny Alexander Lopez-Meneces and Andri Rivas-Rojas, both of Venezuela, began to jettison what appeared to be bales of contraband into the water.

In an attempt to avoiding interdiction, one of the Zodiac crew members fell overboard while throwing bales into the water. CBP officers rescued the man and recovered three bales from the water, which later tested positive to cocaine. The second crew member was subsequently arrested and officers seized 58 additional bales for a total of 61 bales of cocaine weighing 1774 kilograms.

"HSI is committed to working with our federal, state and local counterparts in an effort to stop the movement of contraband in the Caribbean," said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "Those involved in drug trafficking should know that the Caribbean is no longer an option to transship narcotics into the United States."

"These arrests are a clear indication of the continued success of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force," said U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez. "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."

The HSI investigation is ongoing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos R. Cardona is prosecuting the case. The defendants face terms of 10 years to life in prison if found guilty.

The task force is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney's Office created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. CCSF is part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) that investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics using the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed of HSI, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Coast Guard, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico Police Department’s (PRPD) Joint Forces for Rapid Action.