SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, working jointly with officers of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF) arrested Monday three nationals of the Dominican Republic while attempting to smuggle 151 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. The contraband has an estimated street value of approximately $3.7 million.
On June 26, a Coast Guard maritime patrol aircraft detected a 25-foot boat traveling southbound without navigation lights approximately 22 nautical miles north of Loiza.
Three surface assets, one from the Coast Guard and two from the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), deployed to interdict the suspicious vessel. Upon approach by the Coast Guard, the crew of the vessel jettisoned five large bales and continued south at high speed until it stopped approximately six nautical miles north of Loiza.
Coast Guard and PRPD seized and salvaged the vessel, took custody of the crew and recovered the jettisoned bales consisting of 128 bricks of cocaine and two roll-shaped objects which tested positive for heroin.
U.S. Magistrate Bruce McGiverin authorized a complaint charging the three Dominican nationals with possession and importation of a controlled substance and failure to heave. They had their initial hearing before the magistrate Tuesday and were transferred to the Guaynabo Metropolitan Detention Center awaiting the outcome of their case.
“These enforcement actions show how the San Juan’s Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) and CCSF are proving to be a worst case scenario for criminal organizations attempting to smuggle dangerous contraband through Puerto Rico,” said Orlando Baez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “The success of the BESTs in combating drug-related crime and violence is the reason the Department of Homeland Security created the task force in Puerto Rico.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Montes is prosecuting the case.
The San Juan BEST incorporates law enforcement and intelligence resources from HSI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, PRPD, Coast Guard, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, San Juan Police Department, Puerto Rico Ports Authority and Puerto Rico's Department of Treasury. These resources focus their investigative, interdiction and intelligence assets toward the identification, prioritization and investigation of emerging or existing threats related to our borders.
The 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 Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) that investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multikilogram quantities of narcotics using the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed of HSI, Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, the Coast Guard, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico and PRPD's Joint Forces for Rapid Action.
Those arrested face a term of 10 years to life in prison for the narcotics violations. Criminal complaints are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.