SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), working jointly with the Puerto Rico Police Department and other members of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force, arrested two U.S. citizens for drug trafficking and seized 1,048 kilograms of cocaine off the southern coast of Puerto Rico Monday. The cocaine had an estimated street value of more than $72 million.
"This significant seizure and the arrests of two individuals for allegedly attempting to import illegal drugs into the United States proves once more HSI's commitment to work with the Department of Homeland Security, local and other federal partners to stop the illegal traffic of narcotics," said Roberto Escobar Vargas, special agent in charge of HSI Puerto Rico. "Those engaged in the drug trafficking business should know that we will continue using all our resources to identify you, arrest you and prosecute you."
On Monday, strike force officers assigned to the Puerto Rico Police Department's Forces United for Rapid Action and Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources personnel intercepted a suspicious boat towing a 33-foot vessel off the southern coast of Puerto Rico. After examining the vessel's documentation, inspecting officers found an expired boat registration. They proceeded to conduct a more in-depth inspection, which resulted in the discovery of 1,048 kilograms of cocaine.
Two U.S. citizens, Jorge Suarez-Alvelo, 41, of Corozal, Puerto Rico, and Joel Perpina-Quiles, 37, of Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, were arrested in conjunction with the seizure and were transferred to the Guaynabo Metropolitan Detention Center. They had their initial court hearing and remained detained.
This is the second major seizure in less than a week where federal and state authorities prevented large quantities of cocaine from being smuggled into the United States. On the evening of Aug. 1, HSI and strike force partners arrested two individuals and seized 450 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of more than $32 million.
The Caribbean Corridor Strike Force is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney's Office. It was created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. The strike force is part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. The strike force investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of large quantities of narcotics through the Caribbean for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed of HSI, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Puerto Rico Police Department's Forces Unified for Rapid Action.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected weapons and narcotics smuggling and related information by calling at 1-866-DHS-2ICE.