MAYAGUEZ, Puerto Rico – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents, working jointly with other Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) law enforcement officers seized here yesterday approximately 567 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of more than $17 million and arrested a resident of Isabela, Puerto Rico, for importation of narcotics into the United States.
Carlos Gonzalez-Mendez, 26, was traveling in a 24-foot fiberglass vessel 13 nautical miles northwest of Mona Island, Puerto Rico, when the crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) aircraft located the suspicious vessel as it transited the west coast of Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic.
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Key Largo was diverted and interdicted the drug carrying vessel approximately 12 nautical miles southwest of Desecheo Island.
The crew of Key Largo took custody of the alleged Puerto Rican smuggler and initially located and recovered approximately 200 bricks of cocaine from the vessel. They towed the vessel to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, where they turned over custody of the drugs, the vessel and the alleged smuggler to ICE special agents.
ICE agents, personnel of the Key Largo and CBP officers conducted a further inventory search of the interdicted vessel and discovered an additional 302 bricks of cocaine and a partial brick of marijuana.
“Those who think the Mona Passage is an easy route to import illegal drugs into the United States should know that ICE and our federal and local partners have vigorously increased our patrol efforts of the passage to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and narcotics,” said Roberto Escobar Vargas, acting special agent in charge of ICE’s Office of Investigations in Puerto Rico. “ICE is committed to continue working with Caribbean Border Interagency Group and Caribbean Corridor Initiative participants in an effort to stop the movement of contraband in the Caribbean.”
The concept of CBIG resulted from a March 2006 collaboration of local Homeland Security components that effectively stemmed the increased flow of traffic across the Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. In July 2006, CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, CBP's Office of Air & Marine Operations , Office of Field Operations and U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard, and the United States Attorney ' s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, in their common goal of securing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal maritime traffic and controlling our nation's Caribbean borders.
Gonzalez Mendez was transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, awaiting the outcome of his case.