MIAMI - Special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) took custody of three suspected maritime drug smugglers in Miami on Wednesday and helped U.S. Coast Guard crewmembers offload 62 bales of cocaine weighing 3,400 pounds and worth an estimated wholesale value of $48 million.
On Dec. 17, the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thetis intercepted a go-fast boat 160 nautical miles off the coast of Colon, Panama. The cutter Thetis launched a small boat crew and was assisted by aircraft from the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Air and Marine Branch, to stop the go-fast vessel.
The bales were found and retrieved aboard the smuggling boat by Coast Guard boarding team members.
Assisted by ICE, crewmembers of the Key West-based Cutter Thetis offloaded the 62 bales of cocaine at the Coast Guard base in Miami Beach.
"We are ready to stop all contraband on the high seas with our partners, not only in the U.S., but those international agencies that work with us day to day," said Thetis commanding officer Cmdr. Douglas Schofield, U.S. Coast Guard.
"We are seeing more and more of these kinds of smuggling attempts, as organizations react to increased pressure on the southwest border," said Anthony V. Mangione, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Miami. "And we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to put more and more pressure on the organizations that attempt to carry out these and other types of drug smuggling activities."
ICE HSI's investigation into the three suspected smugglers is being conducted by the Miami Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST). BEST was established in Miami in November 2008 and at other major seaports because U.S. ports and maritime borders are subject to significant threats to national security.
The mission of the BEST program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle organizations that seek to exploit vulnerabilities in the U.S. border through increased information sharing and collaboration among partner agencies. The Miami BEST incorporates personnel from ICE HSI; CBP Office of Border Patrol; the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the U.S. Coast Guard; and the Miami-Dade Police Department.