SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), working jointly with members of the Caribbean Border Interagency Group, arrested two individuals for drug trafficking and seized 735 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of more than $18 million off the southern coast of Puerto Rico Tuesday. With this seizure, HSI and its partners have seized more than 3,700 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated wholesale value of $92 million in the past 71 days.
"This is the fourth multi-kilogram cocaine seizure made by HSI and its partners in the last couple of months," said Angel Melendez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "These seizures and related arrests are clear proof that HSI, along with our state and federal partners, are vigilant and will not tolerate the importation of illegal drugs into the United States through Puerto Rico."
On Oct. 8, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) patrol aircraft detected two men onboard a suspicious go-fast vessel with multiple bales of suspected contraband at approximately 55 nautical miles south of Salinas, Puerto Rico. Upon detection, CBP officers alerted the U.S. Coast Guard and CBP marine units, which led to the interdiction of the suspicious vessel.
A boarding team from the Reef Shark, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, located the cocaine shipment sitting in plain view and proceeded to detain the suspected smugglers and the cocaine shipment. The Reef Shark proceeded to tow the go-fast vessel to Ponce, Puerto Rico, where the crew transferred custody of the seized vessel and two suspects to HSI for further investigation.
Dioni Rijo-Avila and Alexander Urrutia-La Llave were arrested in connection with the seizure. They had their initial court hearing Wednesday and were transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, where they await the outcome of their case.
During fiscal year 2012, HSI San Juan and its partners seized more than 9,000 kilograms of cocaine – 2,690 kilograms more than they seized in fiscal year 2011.
In July 2006, HSI, CBP, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action formed the Caribbean Border Interagency Group to unify their efforts. All the agencies have a common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected weapons and narcotics smuggling and related information by calling 1-866-DHS-2ICE or visiting www.ICE.gov/tips.