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ICE, CCSF arrest 5, seize 1,483 kilograms of cocaine

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico-U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents, working jointly with U.S. Coast Guardsmen and other Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF) agents, arrested Friday five alleged Honduran smugglers and seized 66 bales of cocaine following an at-sea interdiction of the fishing vessel Two Brothers, on May 24.

The 87-foot, Panamanian-flagged boat was carrying 1,483 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated wholesale value of approximately $46 million. CCSF agents arrested the five Honduran men in connection with the seizure.

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

As a result of the joint investigative efforts by CCSF participants, the crew of the Royal Netherlands Navy frigate Van Speijk, along with an embedded U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment, interdicted the Two Brothers in international waters on May 24, approximately 34 miles northwest of Oranjestad, Aruba. U.S. Coast Guard crews boarded the Two Brothers, located the cocaine, and detained the crewmembers of the fishing vessel.

Following successful coordination between CCSF agencies, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Puerto Rico, and Republic of Panama officials, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCG Cushing escorted the Two Brothers to San Juan on Friday, where they turned over custody of the fishing vessel, the contraband, and the detained crew to await CCSF agents.

This case has been assigned to Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos R. Cardona from the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF) of the United States Attorney's Office.

CCSF is an initiative of the United States Attorney's Office created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. CCSF is a 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 utilizing the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States.