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March 16, 2022Norfolk, VA, United StatesNarcotics

ICE HSI Norfolk and CBP seize 16.5 pounds of cocaine from vessel in Port of Norfolk, Virginia

WASHINGTON — Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Norfolk and officers from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized 16.5 pounds of cocaine from a vessel at the Port of Norfolk on March 11.

The seizure was part of a joint operation headed by HSI Norfolk’s Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) and CBP's Anti-Terrorism Contraband Enforcement Team.

On March 10, CBP Officers in the Port of Norfolk received intelligence that possible narcotics were onboard a vessel due to arrive into the port. Upon the ship’s arrival in the port, the agents and officers boarded the vessel for inspection. BEST agents and CBP officers interviewed the ship’s captain and ship’s agent regarding the crew and what led to the discovery.

“With this seizure, we not only removed a significant amount of cocaine from circulation, but we also sent a message to drug traffickers that the Port of Norfolk is closed for business,” said Ray Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge HSI Washington, D.C. “We are proud to have partnered with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to make this seizure happen. When our organizations work together, we represent a formidable threat to drug traffickers and a reminder to the American public that they are well protected.”

During the vessel inspection, the joint task force discovered seven bricks of narcotics, weighing approximately 16.5 pounds total, in one of the vessel’s common areas. The bricks contained a white powdery substance that field-tested positive for cocaine. The estimated street value of the drugs is about a quarter of a million dollars.

“This operation was an outstanding example of how CBP and our federal law enforcement partners remain ever vigilant. CBP officers work vigilantly every day to intercept dangerous drugs and contraband as part of efforts to protect the American people," said Mark J. Laria Norfolk Area Port Director. "CBP officers play a critical counter-narcotics role and are committed to keeping illicit drugs far away from local communities."

BEST is a multi-agency task force charged with combatting existing and emerging transnational criminal organizations seeking to exploit the U.S. international borders. BEST employs the full range of federal, state, local, tribal, and international law enforcement resources in the fight to identify, investigate, disrupt, and dismantle these criminal organizations posing significant threats to border security. Agencies making up the Norfolk-based BEST includes HSI, CBP, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, Virginia Port Authority Police, and numerous other law enforcement partners.

HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of DHS, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 03/17/2022