Feds seizing massive amounts of cocaine in marine operations

(The Center Square) – U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations (CBP-AMO) agents and U.S. Coast Guard crews are seizing large quantities of cocaine attempting to be smuggled to the U.S. by boat.

In five recent operations, they seized nearly $290 million worth of cocaine totaling over 15,700 pounds. or nearly 8 tons – enough lethal doses to potentially kill more than 82 million people.

In one operation at the beginning of March, CBP-AMO agents from Houston working with partners in the Eastern Pacific Ocean helped interdict a cocaine maritime smuggling event. The amount seized contained enough lethal doses to kill more than 16.1 million people.

On March 2, agents with CBP’s Houston Air and Marine Branch Maritime Patrol worked with Joint Interagency Task Force-South and international partners in a narcotics smuggling source and transit zone when they detected a suspicious vessel. The aircrew maintained surveillance and communicated with maritime crews during the operation.

An international partner team interdicted the vessel and arrested five people, CBP said. They also seized approximately 3,081 pounds, or over 1.5 tons, of cocaine worth approximately $40.5 million.

According to Addiction Resource, 82.5 milligrams of cocaine is a lethal dose. With over 433,592 milligrams in a pound and 2,000 pounds equaling a ton, in this operation, federal agents seized enough lethal doses of cocaine to potentially kill more than 16.1 million people.

“Our partnerships in the Southeast Region are crucial to stopping the illicit flow of narcotics before they reach U.S. borders,” CBP director of the Houston AMO branch Todd Rowell said. “Our aircrews will continue to be part of the enduring team effort to disrupt and stop maritime smuggling.”

Around the same time, U.S. Coast Guard HMCS Margaret Brooke crew interdicted a vessel in the international waters of the Caribbean and seized more than 1,100 pounds of cocaine. The slightly more than half a ton was worth an estimated street value of $14 million and contained enough lethal doses to potentially kill more than 5.7 million people. Cutter Manowar crew offloaded the drugs at Base Miami Beach earlier this month.

In late February, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alert crew were also involved in a major drug bust in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. A Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron from Jacksonville, Florida, assigned to the crew identified a smuggling vessel. Cutter Alert crew then pursued in small boats. The smugglers threw bails of cocaine into the ocean while being pursued and the crew worked through the night to recover them. They seized 4,900 pounds of cocaine worth more than $143 million. The more than two tons of cocaine seized contained enough lethal doses to potentially kill 25.7 million people.

“The crew worked in the margins, and we won big in the margins,” Cmdr. Lee Crusius, commanding officer Coast Guard Cutter Alert, said. “The return on investment from the Coast Guard to the American people continues to be demonstrated by our ability to project capabilities and rule of law within the maritime domain.”

Also in late February, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Reliance crew, based in Pensacola, Florida, in support of Joint Interagency Task Force-South, interdicted two major drug smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. They stopped two drug smuggling operations and detained six suspected smugglers. They seized nearly 4,000 pounds of cocaine and 5,400 pounds of marijuana in international waters, preventing their entry to the United States.

The 2 tons of cocaine, worth more than $57 million, contained enough lethal doses to potentially kill more than 21 million people.

Also earlier this year, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thetis crew from Key West, Florida, worked with Joint Interagency Task Force-South, a Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron and USS Farragut crew to deter drug smuggling in the Central Caribbean. In two separate events, they seized a total of 2,646 pounds of cocaine, more than 1.5 tons, with an estimated street value of $34.8 million. The amount seized contained enough lethal doses to kill more than 13.9 million people.

“The cases we encountered on this patrol emphasize the importance of collaboration across departments and agencies in deterring the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States,” Master Chief Petty Officer AJ Gibson, Thetis’ command chief, said.

In Fiscal Year 2023, CBP-AMO enforcement actions resulted in 1,004 arrests and 89,909 apprehensions of illegal foreign nationals. Agents also seized or disrupted 256,883 pounds of cocaine, 2,049 pounds of fentanyl, 4,050 pounds of methamphetamine, 2,200 weapons, and $15.3 million worth of cash.

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