SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A vessel with 1,608 kilograms of cocaine was seized Monday and four suspected smugglers were apprehended off the coast of Rio Grande, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
The crew of a Customs and Border Protection maritime patrol aircraft, while on patrol Sunday night, detected a 35-foot go-fast vessel moving in the dark without the use of navigational lights in waters off Dorado, officials said.
Watchstanders diverted a 33-foot response boat and the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez to capture the vessel. Officials said an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft was also sent to assist with aerial surveillance. CBP and Puerto Rico police marine units also responded.
Officials said the response boat and the marine unit engaged in a high-speed pursuit of the vessel. A CBP marine unit came upon and stopped the vessel off the coast of Rio Grande.
Two of the suspected smugglers were arrested aboard the go-fast. Officials said two others who jumped overboard during the pursuit were recovered and apprehended by the crew of the Coast Guard response boat and the Puerto Rico police marine unit.
The men were turned over to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico.
Officials said 48 bales containing 1,449 bricks of suspected cocaine weighing 1,608 kilograms were field-tested and yielded positive results to the presence of cocaine.
"These arrests are a clear indication of the continued success of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force," said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. "This is just another example of the fine work our state and federal law enforcement partners accomplish every day. With the continued collaboration and assistance of our law enforcement partners, we will continue our efforts to bring the most powerful and prolific drug organizations to justice."
"The strong interagency partnerships, effective coordination and the rapid response displayed by all responding units resulted in the interdiction of this major drug shipment and the apprehension of the smugglers, who will now have their day in court," said Capt. Robert Warren, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander. "Our collective resolve and tireless efforts to interdict and stop drug smuggling vessels at sea is making a difference in providing for the security of our citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands."
Officials said the contraband, detainees and seized go-fast vessel were placed in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations special agents in San Juan.