SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), working jointly with the Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) and the Vieques Municipal Police seized Thursday 2,378 pounds of cocaine south of the island of Vieques. The cocaine has an estimated street value of $25 million approximately.
“HSI is committed to working with our federal, state and local counterparts in an effort to stop the movement of contraband in the Caribbean,” said Iván J. Arvelo, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “Those involved in drug trafficking should know that the Caribbean is no longer an option to transship narcotics into the United States.”
On Feb 7, while investigating a suspicious yola-type vessel in Vieques, HSI and CBP special agents and officers, respectively, learned that a Coast Guard air unit, while on a routine patrol, detected another incoming vessel at approximately 10 nautical miles south of Vieques.
CBP marine interdiction officers responded to the area and initiated a hot pursuit and observed it occupants fleeing the scene upon landing south of Vieques.
HSI special agents contacted the Vieques Municipal Police (VMP) with the exact location of the landing. Upon arriving, the VPM found an abandoned spider vessel with 33 bales containing 888 bricks of cocaine with an approximate weight of 1081 kilograms (2,378 lbs.). The contraband was later released to HSI.
The HSI investigation is ongoing.
ICE investigates narcotics smuggling organizations and the methods utilized to smuggle contraband across U.S. borders. Smuggling methods include the use of high-speed vessels, cargo containers, aircraft, commercial trucking, commercial vessel and human carriers.
ICE agents enforce a wide range of criminal statutes including Title 18 and Title 19 of the U.S. Code. These statutes address general smuggling issues as well as customs violations. ICE also enforces Title 21, which covers the importation, distribution, manufacture and possession of illegal narcotics.
ICE agents have extensive knowledge of the border environment and techniques employed by smuggling organizations to transport contraband into the United States. This expertise has been gained through years of experience in conducting undercover operations, utilizing confidential informants, special enforcement operations and conducting contraband smuggling investigations.
The methods used by smuggling organizations are always changing and through continued training, the use of emerging technologies and dedication, ICE has maintained its expertise in disrupting and dismantling these criminal organizations.