About $500 million worth of cocaine offloaded at Port Everglades

18.5 tons of cocaine seized in Eastern Pacific Ocean

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. – The U.S. Coast Guard offloaded about 18.5 tons of cocaine Thursday at Port Everglades.

The drugs are worth about $500 million, authorities said.

According to Coast Guard officials, the cocaine was seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America.

"These are vessels that are constructed to be non-detected by law enforcement agencies, like ourselves here. It's on fishing pangas, it is on commercial fishing boats -- it is a very adaptive adversary that we are involved with here," said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz.

Officials said the drugs were seized during 15 separate drug smuggling vessel interdictions.

"This multi-ton offload of cocaine represents not just the work of the men and women of Coast Guard Cutter James, but that of our partners and allies that work every day to dismantle the criminal organizations that seek to profit from trafficking drugs and other illicit items to our shores," said Capt. Jeffrey Randall, commanding officer of the cutter James. "It takes a network to defeat a network, and we will continue to expand our capabilities and leverage these partnerships to amplify our impact and stop this illegal trade which threatens our national security and breads instability in our partner nations."

Video from a Coast Guard helicopter shows the moments a crew boarded a low profile go-fast boat used to smuggle the drugs.  But we learned, at times their interdictions aren't that simple.  

Officials say the vessels carrying the drugs will sometimes try and run from law enforcement and that is when they say are forced to shoot at them to try and stop them.

In other cases, officials say the smugglers will transport the drugs in areas you would least expect to find them.

"These four pallets came from a fishing vessel -- an Ecuadorian fishing vessel. In that particular case, we saw a new concealment method," Randall said.

Randall said seizing the drugs not only stops them from eventually making in into our country, but also assists with working to prevent the violence brought on by the illegal substance.

"Drugs are just one of the many commodities they move here," Schultz said. "They are smuggling in human cargos -- you name it. If there is a profit to be made, these transnational criminals are in that space."

The cocaine has been turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which will destroy it. 

The U.S. Coast Guard and its allies have increased their presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy.

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