SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, working jointly with officers from the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF), seized 173 kilograms of cocaine – worth $4.2 million – and arrested two smugglers during a maritime interdiction in the Mona Passage Thursday.
On Wednesday night, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) marine surveillance aircraft on patrol in the Mona Passage detected two men aboard a suspicious vessel with no running navigational lights. This vessel was heading towards Puerto Rico, approximately 43 nautical miles northwest of Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico.
The crew of the CBP aircraft vectored a Coast Guard Station San Juan 33-foot response boat and the Coast Guard Cutter Key Largo, on patrol in the Mona Passage, to interdict the suspect vessel.
The crew of the Coast Guard response boat interdicted the 20-foot blue "yola" type vessel. In addition to the two Dominican Republic men onboard, the crew of the response boat also identified white bales of suspected contraband, which were in plain view on the deck. A Coast Guard boarding team conducted a more thorough search of the vessel and found additional bricks of contraband hidden inside. A field test revealed the contraband to be cocaine. The crew of the Key Largo took custody of the smugglers and seized 154 bricks of suspected contraband.
The crew of the Key Largo transferred custody of the Dominican national and the contraband to awaiting ICE HSI agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.
"ICE HSI will continue working with our CCSF partners to identify and dismantle drug trafficking organizations responsible for the importation of multi-kilograms quantities of drugs to Puerto Rico," said Roberto Escobar Vargas, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Puerto Rico. "Those who think that Puerto Rico is an easy transshipment point to smuggle drugs into the United States, should think twice. ICE HSI and its partners are vigilant and those responsible will be arrested and brought to justice."
The men are currently in federal custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico awaiting the outcome of their case.