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3 suspected smugglers nabbed, 900 kilograms of cocaine seized

• Mar 9, 2018 at 6:00 PM

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico —The Coast Guard announced Friday the apprehension of three suspected drug smugglers and seizure of 900 kilograms of cocaine following a recent at-sea interdiction in the Caribbean Sea south of Puerto Rico.

Three men, Dominican, Colombian and Venezuelan nationals, apprehended in this case are now in the custody of federal law enforcement authorities in Puerto Rico, where they are facing potential prosecution.

This interdiction was the result of ongoing, multi-agency federal law enforcement efforts in support of Operation Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF).

Coca goes through several stages to become cocaine, with value added at each step, according to an article in Business Insider.

To produce a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of pure cocaine requires about a ton of fresh coca leaf, according to Tom Wainwright, the former Economist reporter in Mexico City and author of "Narconomics who was interviewed by Business Insider. "It then gets dried out, it weighs a bit less, but that ton of leaf to start with costs only about $400 or $500 in Colombia," he said.

Farmers who process that coca leaf into a base paste and then sell that to traffickers reportedly receive about $900 a kilo.

Once that paste is turned into cocaine and shipped north, it can fetch between $10,000 and $20,000 a kilo, depending on where it arrives, Business Insider reported..

That means the 900 kilograms of cocaine seized by the Coast Guard is worth between $9 million and $18 million.

During the night of March 1, the crew of a patrolling CBP maritime patrol aircraft from the Caribbean Air and Marine Branch (CAMB) detected a suspicious 30-foot go-fast vessel with visible packages on deck transiting without navigational lights, about 50 nautical miles south of Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Donald Horsley to intercept the suspect vessel and CAMB positioned marine units that were also ready to respond. The Donald Horsley arrived on scene and interdicted the go-fast, detained the suspected smugglers and seized multiple bales of contraband, which tested positive for cocaine.

The contraband and detainees were transported to Puerto Rico and turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigations for further investigation, processing and final disposition.

“The resolve and excellent coordination of our federal and local law enforcement partners operating as part of the Caribbean Border Interagency Group and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force strengthens the security of the nation’s Caribbean border from these drug laden vessels and brings those responsible to justice,” said Capt. Eric P. King, Sector San Juan commander.

Operation Unified Resolve is a Department of Homeland Security multi-agency law enforcement operation to support ongoing efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands executed under the San Juan Regional Coordinating Mechanism (SJ ReCoM)/Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG). The initiative seeks to forward-deploy additional Coast Guard resources and capabilities from the United States, such as C-130 and HC-144 maritime patrol aircraft and additional Coast Guard cutters, to augment locally assigned federal resources and strengthen patrol efforts to deter, detect and disrupt illicit maritime trafficking in and around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Caribbean Border Interagency Group was formally created to unify efforts between U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, United States Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action, in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling threats.

CCSF is a U.S. Attorney’s Office initiative created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. CCSF if part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) that investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement and illegal narcotics utilizing the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is comprised of ICE-HIS, The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Puerto Rico Police Department’s Joint Forces of Rapid Action.

The Coast Guard Cutter Donald Horsley is a 154-foot Fast Response Cutter homeported in San Juan.

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