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Contraband
06/11/2010

ICE, USCG arrest 3, seize 532 pounds of cocaine

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) cutter USCG Cushing, working jointly with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents, arrested Thursday three alleged smugglers and seized approximately 532 pounds of cocaine in Mayaguez, following an at-sea interdiction of a pleasure craft.

The 26-foot vessel, La Burla, was carrying a shipment of cocaine with an estimated street value of approximately $7.5 million. ICE special agents arrested two Puerto Rican and one Dominican man in connection with the seizure.

"Through these seizures we are sending a clear message that Puerto Rico will not be a safe haven for criminals looking to ship drugs into Puerto Rico and the mainland United States," said Roberto Escobar-Vargas, ICE acting special agent in charge in San Juan. "ICE, along with its federal and local partners, are committed to working together to stop the flow of illegal narcotics into Puerto Rico."

"This is another example of our collective efforts with ICE, DEA, FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Puerto Rico Police and the U.S. Attorney's Office working aggressively to combat drug trafficking organizations and bring smugglers to justice," said Capt. Eduardo Pino, U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander.

The crew of the USCG Cushing detected and interdicted the suspicious pleasure craft Thursday morning in waters approximately four nautical miles north of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

Upon interdicting the vessel, the crew of the Cushing conducted an at-sea boarding of La Burla, which revealed the drug shipment hidden inside a compartment onboard the vessel. Further field testing of the contraband yielded positive to cocaine. The crew of the Cushing proceeded to detain all three crew members onboard and escort La Burla to the Port of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

The crew of the Cushing, ICE, and CBP officers conducted a further search of La Burla once it was safely moored in Mayaguez.

The case was transferred to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico for further prosecution.

USCG Cushing is a 110-foot patrol boat home ported in San Juan.