Coast Guard, Partner Agencies Offload $13.3 Million of Cocaine, Heroin
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard transferred custody of two suspected smugglers, 491.5 kilograms of cocaine and 9.2 kilograms of suspected heroin worth an estimated wholesale value of $13.3 million at Coast Guard Sector San Juan following a recent interagency interdiction by Caribbean Border Interagency Group partner agencies in the Caribbean Sea off Puerto Rico, the Coast Guard 7th District said in an April 19 release.
The crew of a patrolling Customs and Border Protection Caribbean Air and Marine Branch (CAMB) maritime patrol aircraft initially detected a 30-foot go-fast vessel April 14 transiting with two people onboard and visible packages on deck south of Patillas, Puerto Rico.
Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan diverted the Cutter Richard Dixon to intercept the suspect vessel while CAMB and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action positioned marine units that were also ready to respond. Richard Dixon arrived on scene and interdicted the go-fast, detained the suspected smugglers and seized multiple bales of contraband, which tested positive for cocaine.
The crew of Richard Dixon later rendezvoused with and transferred the contraband and detainees to the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez for transport to Coast Guard Sector San Juan where Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Financial Investigative Team Special Agents in charge of the investigation took custody of the case.
“This case highlights the unwavering resolve and collective efforts of Coast Guard, federal and local law enforcement partners to strengthen the security of the nation’s Caribbean border and protect our citizens from drug smuggling that threaten our shores,” said Capt. Eric P. King, Sector San Juan commander. “This successful interdiction resulted in the detention of two smugglers and kept a major drug shipment off the streets.”
“Inter-agency relentless mission of disrupting and dismantling transnational drug trafficking organizations will continue,” said Reinaldo R. López, DEA Caribbean Division associate special agent in charge. “DEA warns drug traffickers, especially across the Caribbean, that we are hunting them down in an all-year-round open season.”
The two men apprehended in this case, a U.S. citizen from Puerto Rico and a Dominican Republic national 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 Border Interagency Group.
Richard Dixon and Heriberto Hernandez are 154-foot fast response cutters homeported in San Juan.
Specifically, Sailors and Marines could be able to use the Battle Management System to fire missiles and precision guided munitions from the CUSV. They would use the autonomous system for detection, tracking, and direct fire engagement.
“If the decision was made to outfit the CUSV with a variety of payloads, it could be deployed from nearly any large ship and could be deployed in significant numbers from a U.S. Navy ship or a joint high-speed vessel-type platform to perform a variety of roles,” said Nerney. “We are focused on the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle today because it’s the Navy’s only program of record unmanned surface vehicle platform. It’s also our concept of modular plug and play weapon systems integrated onto a USV that can be scaled up or down as appropriate. If the Navy or Marine Corps decide to build big unmanned surface vehicles, we could scale the guns and missiles up. If the decision is to go with swarms of small USVs, then we could scale the system down accordingly.”
Between now and the live-fire test, NSWCDD and Textron Systems will work together to rapidly develop and integrate as proofs of concept a variety of surface and expeditionary warfare payloads for the CUSV to include operations with unmanned air and subsurface vehicles.
“Our partnerships with industry allow us to move fast,” said Fiore. “If you’re the one that’s going to be giving this capability to warfighters, I want you to be effective in doing that. That’s what motivates us and that’s why we collaborate. That’s why it’s so important for us to have you here today with your equipment and have you partnering with us.”
The Navy’s collaboration with Textron Systems began in 2011 when the developmental Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle was developed and used in a variety of Navy demonstrations.
In December, the company signed a cooperative research and development agreement with NSWCDD. The agreement covers the integration of missile, designator, and remote weapon station payloads to Textron Systems’ developmental CUSV with its 3,500-pound payload capacity on the deck and a payload bay measuring 20.5 x 6.5 feet.