Coast Guard Offloads $56 Million of Cocaine in St. Petersburg
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tarpon offloaded approximately 1,735 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated wholesale value of $56 million and transferred custody of eight suspected drug smugglers at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg, the Coast Guard said in a May 3 release.
The contraband and detainees were seized April 12 through April 21 during four separate interdictions by Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment Teams (LEDET) aboard several Coast Guard, foreign coalition and partner agency boats in coastal waters along the Central American coastline in support of Operation Martillo.
The most noteworthy and fruitful interdiction took place April 19 when Coast Guard LEDET personnel embarked on USS Zephyr, a U.S. Navy Cyclone-class patrol coastal ship home ported in Mayport, Fla., and coalition forces intercepted 750 kilograms of contraband and five suspected drug smugglers while on patrol in international waters 120 miles south west Mona Island, P.R.
Zephyr, along with the Karel Doorman-class multi-purpose frigate HNLMS Van Amstel of the Royal Netherlands Navy, pursued and Coast Guard LEDET boarded a small panga fishing boat in the Caribbean Sea. The crews found and confiscated 750 kilograms of cocaine, a wholesale value of $22.5 million, and detained the five suspected drug smugglers.
“Over all, this offload represents our recent success in securing our borders and preventing illegal, regionally destabilizing narcotics from reaching our streets,” said Cmdr. Willy Carmichael, assistant branch chief of Coast Guard 7th District Response Enforcement. “It is truly an interagency and international effort that directly supports the commandant's Western Hemisphere strategy.”
The contraband and detainees were transferred and offloaded by the crew of the Cutter Tarpon, an 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boat homeported in St. Petersburg.
These interdictions were part of Operation Martillo, which is one component in the United States government’s whole-of-government approach to countering the use of the Central American littorals as transshipment routes for illicit drugs, weapons and cash. Martillo is an international operation focused on sharing information and bringing together air, land and maritime assets from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as Western Hemisphere and European partner nation agencies, to counter illicit trafficking.
In the five years since its 2012 launch, Martillo has supported the seizure of approximately 693 metric tons of cocaine, $25 million in bulk cash, 581 vessels and aircraft and the arrest of 1,863 detainees, according to the U.S. Southern Command.