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HSI, Caribbean Corridor Strike Force seize 918 kilograms of cocaine, arrest 3

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), working jointly with other members of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF), arrested three Dominican Republic nationals for drug trafficking and seized 918 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of more than $22 million Monday off the southern coast of Puerto Rico.

"In less than one month HSI and its partners in the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force have seized more than 2,000 kilograms of cocaine," 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 Sept. 17, Puerto Rico Police Department's (PRPD) United Forces for Rapid Action (FURA), working jointly with CCSF partners, detected a suspicious vessel with two outboard engines reaching the shores of Tuna Beach in the town of Maunabo, Puerto Rico. Immediately after detection FURA, with the assistance of the U.S. Border Patrol, proceeded to intercept the vessel which had made it to the beach with 811 bricks of cocaine inside.

Three Dominican Republic nationals, Cecilio Mercedes-De la Cruz, Jose Miguel Guzman-De los Santos and Victor Manuel Carela, were arrested in conjunction with the seizure. They had their initial hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Camille Velez-Rive Tuesday and were transferred to the Guaynabo, Puerto Rico Metropolitan Detention Center awaiting the outcome of their case.

CCSF is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney's Office created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. CCSF is part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force that investigate South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics using the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed of HSI, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Coast Guard, CBP and PRPD's FURA.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected weapons and narcotics smuggling and related information by calling 1-866-DHS-2ICE. For more information, visit www.ice.gov.