Photo: CBP Disrupts 2 Attempts to Move Cocaine
Trackers spot boats in Pacific, Caribbean waters
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and its interagency partners disrupted two separate maritime smuggling attempts, Feb. 23 and Feb. 24, resulting in the arrest of six individuals and recovering more than 2,200 pounds of cocaine with a street value of more than $160 million.
“These interceptions are indicative of our efforts to remain vigilant and our commitment to joining our international partners in disrupting criminal activity at every opportunity,” said Tom Salter, director National Air Security Operations Center, at Corpus Christi. “This disruption is just the latest example of how effective our interagency partnerships can be.”
A crew aboard a CBP Office of Air and Marine (OAM) P-3 was on patrol as part of the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S) in the open waters in the Eastern Pacific near Costa Rica when they detected an illegal watercraft moving rapidly and identified it as a 35 foot, twin-engine speedboat. Surveillance indicated the speedboat was carrying fuel barrels and cargo.
The crew vectored a U.S. Navy vessel which deployed a helicopter and a rigid hull inflatable boat to the speed boat’s location intercepting and recovering three suspects and 2,200 pounds of cocaine.
The following day, in the Western Caribbean, another OAM P-3 crew detected a 35-foot, twin-engine speedboat carrying fuel barrels and cargo and traveling near Panama. Three operators could be seen setting their vessel on fire and jumping overboard.
The P-3 crew vectored a U.S. Coast Guard cutter to the boat’s location. The USCG deployed a rigid hull inflatable boat and rescued the three vessel operators, extinguished the fire on the vessel, and recovered several bales of contraband which were not yet identified.
CBP OAM P-3s have been an integral part of the counter-narcotic mission led by JIATF-S under the direction of U.S. Southern Command. The P-3s patrol a 42 million square mile area of the Western Caribbean and Eastern Pacific, known as the Source and Transit Zone, in search of drugs that are in transit towards U.S. shores.
The P-3s’ distinctive detection capabilities allow highly-trained crews to identify emerging threats well beyond the U.S. land borders. By providing surveillance of known air, land, and maritime smuggling routes in an area that is twice the size of the continental U.S., the P-3s and the interagency partners detect, monitor and disrupt smuggling activities before they reach shore.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.