MIAMI - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents seized a total of 1,636 pounds of marijuana, worth approximately $2 million in street value, and arrested seven individuals on federal criminal charges in two separate attempted drug smuggling ventures in the past week.
On Thursday, ICE HSI special agents seized 42 bales of marijuana, weighing approximately 440 pounds, following an interdiction by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard first observed the bales of marijuana in the wake of a Bahamian vessel and recovered them from the water. Four individuals were taken off the vessel and transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Yesterday, ICE HSI special agents arrested and transported the four individuals to the United States to face federal criminal charges.
"We have seen an increase over the past year in marijuana smuggling attempts, as organizations react to increased pressure on the southwest border," said Anthony V. Mangione, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Miami. "Historically, South Florida has been at the forefront of all types of smuggling ventures and ICE will continue to partner with other law enforcement agencies to target drug smuggling organizations."
On Dec. 11, ICE HSI marine smuggling special agents initiated an investigation after they received information that two vessels would be traveling from Bimini, Bahamas, carrying a large amount of marijuana to a house adjacent to the Miami River. At approximately 8:30 a.m., ICE HSI agents witnessed two vessels, a Proline and Angler, enter the Miami River and proceed to a residence on North River Drive in Miami. The ICE HSI agents met the masters of both vessels on the dock behind the residence and conducted a routine vessel boarding. After boarding, agents detected a strong odor of marijuana from the Angler. A subsequent search of the Angler revealed 90 bales of marijuana weighing 1,196 pounds, worth approximately $1 million in street value, concealed in the floor compartments and underneath the center console.
A consent search of the house revealed a marijuana hydroponics lab with 15 marijuana plants. Additionally, ICE HSI agents discovered a cooler next to the door of the residence full of packages containing marijuana. Three Miami residents were arrested and charged with conspiracy to import into the United States a controlled substance and conspiracy to possess and distribute a controlled substance.
The investigation was led by ICE HSI in Miami with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine, U.S. Coast Guard Seventh District, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and City of Miami Police Department.