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HSI, PRPD, seize 1,300 kilograms of cocaine, arrest 3

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), working jointly with the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) and other members of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF), arrested three individuals and seized 1,300 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of $30 million Wednesday off the southern coast of Puerto Rico.

"This is one of the largest amounts of cocaine that HSI, with the assistance of our CCSF partners, has been able to seize in Puerto Rico this year," said Angel Melendez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "These seizures and related arrests are clear proof that HSI, along with our state and federal partners, are vigilant and will not tolerate the importation of illegal drugs into the United States through Puerto Rico."

On Wednesday, PRPD's Joint Forces for Rapid Action detected a suspicious vehicle carrying several tanks of gasoline similar to those normally used during the sea transfer of narcotics. Upon inspection of the shoreline near Santa Isabel, the officers detected and intercepted a vessel carrying the 1,300 kilograms of contraband and arrested the crew of three Dominican nationals.

Simeon Peña-Hernandez, 52, Paulino Almonte, 46, and Ramon Medina-Laureano, 39, were arrested in conjunction with the seizure. They had their initial hearing before US Magistrate Marcos Lopez Wednesday and were transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo awaiting the outcome of their case. The HSI investigation is ongoing.

CCSF 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 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and 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 U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Coast Guard, CBP and PRPD's Joint Forces for Rapid Action.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected weapons and narcotics smuggling and related information by calling at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. For more information, visit www.ice.gov.