U.S. Coast Guard Seizes $15M in Cocaine After Pursuit off Puerto Rico 

USCG pursuit off Puerto Rico
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Published Jul 13, 2021 6:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos offloaded nearly $15 million in seized cocaine and transferred custody of two male smugglers at Coast Guard Base San Juan on July 12, following the interdiction of a go-fast vessel near Puerto Rico.

During a routine patrol on July 10, a Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations aircrew detected two men aboard a go-fast vessel suspected of drug trafficking. The successful interdiction was the result of a coordinated multi-agency effort in support of U.S. Southern Command's enhanced counter-narcotics operations. The CBP plane coordinated with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico.

The Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos, operating from its homeport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was at sea also on a routine mission when it was diverted to coordinate with the aircraft. Responding to the scene, the cuter found itself in hot pursuit to interdict the suspect vessel, which was seen throwing packages overboard. Working with the aircraft and the cutter’s small boat, they successfully interdicted the go-fast vessel.

“I directly attribute the success of this interdiction to the close interoperability that the Coast Guard has with CBP and my crew’s phenomenal performance during the pursuit, boarding, and towing of the go-fast vessel,” said Lt. Anthony Orr, Cutter Joseph Tezanos commanding officer. “It was a pleasure to work with the crew of the CBP aircraft, who vectored the cutter to intercept the go-fast vessel.”

The crew of cutter Joseph Tezanos embarked the suspected smugglers and located loose packages aboard the 24-foot go-fast vessel. They also recovered packages from the water that were jettisoned from the go-fast vessel. In total, the crew of Joseph Tezanos seized 502 packages of cocaine with a combined weight of approximately 1,104 pounds.

“The Caribbean Air and Marine Branch values its partnerships that result in successful seizures like this one,” said Hector Rojas, Director of the Caribbean Air and Marine Branch. “Our agents will continue to use our advanced aeronautical and maritime capabilities to detect and interdict smuggling attempts throughout our coastal borders.”

The Caribbean Corridor Strike Force is a multi-agency Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force focusing on Caribbean and South American-based Transnational Criminal Organizations involved in the maritime and air smuggling shipments of narcotics from Puerto Rico.