What border crisis? Coast Guard offloads more than $67 million worth of seized cocaine in San Diego

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SAN DIEGO, CA – Talk about a huge bust – last week, the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast (WMEC-623) offloaded 3,905 pounds of alleged cocaine in San Diego. The drugs are worth more than $67 million.

They were seized in the international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. This is the second drug smuggling attempt this year that was intercepted by the Steadfast crew.

The drugs were apprehended off the coasts of Mexico, Central, and South America.

The first seizure of the cocaine started on April 1, 2020. This was during a 65-day counter-narcotics operation.

The cutter intercepted and boarded five suspected smuggling vessels while they patrolled the international waters off the coasts of Mexico and Central America. The Steadfast crew apprehended three suspected smugglers.

They seized 1,252 pounds of pure cocaine worth an estimated $21.5 million in this operation.

Commander Dan Ursino, the Commanding Officer of the Steadfast, told the Coast Guard News:

“I am inspired daily by the tenacity and professionalism of this crew. Their resilience to remain focused, in light of the global health crisis and uncertainty back home, has been nothing short of remarkable.

Knowing the importance and impact of keeping these harmful substances from reaching our streets help to keep us going.”

USCGC Steadfast is a Coast Guard resource deployed anywhere along the western seaboard of North and Central America. The Steadfast enforces living marine resource laws and regulations, detecting and interdicting drug and migrant smuggling, and counter-narcotic operations.

The Steadfast has made many successful transits across the “Graveyard of the Pacific” before, and after, deployments. The Columbia River Bar, Columbia River, and the Pacific Ocean combine to create a hazard to navigation. The area is known for its unpredictable and heavy weather all-year-long. This has caused thousands of marine vessel wreckages.

While they completed their 65-day mission, the Steadfast continued to participate in the Columbia River Maritime Museum’s Mini Boat Project.

This project connects students from local Oregon elementary schools with their peers in Japan. Students learn about the significance of ocean currents and weather. The students build miniature boats to send across the ocean to one another.

During this patrol, Steadfast launched two boats approximately 200 miles off the southern tip of Baja, Mexico. The boat names are Boat-A-Lohti and Philbert.

The Steadfast is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter that was commissioned in 1968. It is one of two Reliance class-cutters homeported in Astoria, Oregon.

The team effort of stopping these drug cartels is nonstop. The Coast Guard has been very busy on the west coast over the summer.

The Steadfast isn’t the only cutter that’s been stopping bad guys. In May, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Active (WMEC-618) offloaded more than 2,000 pounds of cocaine from the known drug-transit zones of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The bust was worth approximately $37 million.

Commander James O’Mara, the Commanding Officer of the Active said:

“This patrol, and this interdiction, in particular, highlights the resilience and professionalism of Active’s crew. We canceled a port visit, stretched logistics, and diverted 500 miles to get on target and do our job.

No captain could ask or expect more from a crew, especially given all the adversity overcome during this patrol. Though I know if more were required, this crew would rally and answer the call, the way they always do.”

The Active is a 210-foot medium-endurance cutter commissioned in 1966. It is homeported in Port Angeles, Washington. Active’s crew routinely operate from the Straits of Juan de Fuca down to the waters off Central America.

Active conducts nine of the Coast Guard’s 11 statutory missions. These include search and rescue, drug interdiction, fisheries enforcement, and homeland security.

In September, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf offloaded more than 26,000 pounds of cocaine and marijuana in San Diego. The drugs, worth an estimated $390 million, were seized in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. They were responsible for two other interdictions seizing about 6,700 pounds of cocaine.

The Bertholf is a 418-foot national security cutter, commissioned in 2008 and homeported in Alameda.

The Coast Guard Cutters have stopped many of the illegal drugs coming into the U.S. by boat over the past few months. Here are a few examples: The Stratton (WMSL-752 was responsible for three interdictions seizing approximately 6,000 pounds of cocaine. The Confidence (WMEC-619) crew stopped 50 pounds of the Mama Coca in two different incidences. The Decisive (WMEC-629) intercepted and about 1,900 pounds of Lady Caine. The crew of the Venturous (WMEC-625) apprehended approximately 1,100 pounds of Coke. The Tampa (WMEC-902) crew confiscated around 1,600 pounds of the Big C and 3,650 pounds of marijuana.

On April 1, U.S. Southern Command began enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere to disrupt the flow of drugs in support of Presidential National Security Objectives.

Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security cooperated in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with allied and international partner agencies, play a role in counter-drug operations. 

Director Jim Carroll, Office of National Drug Control Policy said of this mission:

“The routine during this patrol was different than most, but the U.S. Coast Guard rose to the challenge, as they always do. These efforts by our U.S. Coast Guard and United States Navy are critical to reducing the availability of illicit drugs in our country.

They are absolutely committed to saving lives, and their work that you see here today will result in lives being saved across the United States.”

The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring, and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions by international partners and U.S. Attorneys in districts across the nation.

The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is conducted under the authority of the 11th Coast Guard District, headquartered in Alameda. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led and conducted by members of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Admiral Karl Schultz, the commandant of the United States Coast Guard, said:

“These results are unity of effort in action. Whole of Government, the whole of partnerships, this is what it takes to keep illicit drugs off American streets.

We take these drugs down at sea, where they’re most vulnerable, where they’re most susceptible to intercept. In doing that, we break the cycle of those drugs landing in Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico and triggering violence and corruption. That’s why this matters.”

According to Drug Abuse Statistics, 53 million or 19.4% of people twelve years and older used illegal drugs or misused prescription drugs nationwide in 2017. This is a little under the populations of California, Oregon, Washington state, and Idaho.

The war on drugs has cost the United States government over $1 trillion dollars since 1971. The U.S. budget for 2019 was $29.9 billion. Sadly, more Americans died of drug overdoses in 2017 than the total casualties in the Vietnam war. 68 percent of the 72,000 deaths involved opioids.

What border crisis? US Coast Guard seizes $216 million dollars’ worth of drugs bound for Florida.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – Despite what Democrats might tell you, we have a massive border crisis underway… and it’s flooding our communities with drugs.

The United States Coast Guard seized a large number of drugs over the time span of two weeks.  The estimated street value for the drugs seized is over $200 million dollars.

Article Featured Image

Credit US Coast Guard

The Coast Guard cutter, the Harriet Lane, came into port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with a large cache of seized drugs.  The ship was able to secure 12,100 pounds of cocaine and 5,759 pounds of marijuana.

The Coast Guard advised that the drug seizures were from ongoing operations that lasted around two weeks.  They estimated the street value of the drugs at $216 million dollars. 

The drugs were seized, according to Fox News from:

“12 separate law enforcement cases by two Coast Guard vessels, three U.S. Navy vessels, and two British Royal Navy vessels in both the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.”

Although there is little more information that has been released regarding the drugs seized during this operation, there have been other busts in the south Florida area, this time from the Customs and Border Patrol.

In August, the US Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations, Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Aviation Administration, and CBP Field operations performed an investigation on a suspicious aircraft. 

The Air and Marine Operations from Fort Lauderdale were informed that this aircraft was part of an ongoing investigation and needed further investigation.  Federal authorities moved in and grounded the flight for further inspection.

The Air and Marine Operations authorities located:

“18 assault/bolt action rifles with optics, six shotguns, 58 semi-automatic pistols, $20,312 in U.S. currency, and $2,618.53 in endorsed checks.”

All of the items were seized as evidence and the Homeland Security Investigations authorities placed two Venezuelan nationals under arrest.  They learned that the aircraft was supposed to be headed to St. Vincent.

In another bust, CBP announced that they had located and seized 8.5 pounds of cocaine from an express consignment carrier while at the Miami International Airport.  CBP estimates the street value of the drugs to be $100,000.00.

The CBP Port director for the Miami International Airport, Christopher D Maston, said:

“Transnational criminal organizations will stop at nothing to get illicit contraband into our country, and we must stay one step ahead of them to deter their activities.  Our officers are dedicated to keeping drugs and other paraphernalia out of our country and out of our communities.”

CBP reported that they were performing inspections of inbound consignment packages that were coming from Columbia and contained Moringa.  Moringa is a plant that comes from areas of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.  The plant is used for food in those regions. 

CBP officers inspected these packages and noted something that did not seem to belong.  Officers located a green powder and a black tar substance that were in the packages containing the Moringa.

They seized the substances and sent them to a lab for testing.  In April, the tests came back which showed the substances were cocaine.

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MANHATTAN, NY –On September 1st, the Mexico’s Secretaria de Marina, the Mexican Navy, intercepted a boat filled with cocaine that was bound for New York.  The boat was stopped by Mexican authorities off of the Mexican State of Quintana Roo.

DEA Merida Resident Office and Mexico's Secretaria de Marina seize over 3 tons of cocaine from boat off the coast of Quintana RooPhotos courtesy of the DEA

In speaking of the major cocaine bust and the partnerships the law enforcement community has with the Mexican authorities, DEA Special Agent in Charge Raymond Donovan spoke of the seizure, saying:

“Law enforcement thwarted cartel plans to saturate the American drug market with cocaine by intercepting over three tons of cocaine heading towards American towns. 

This international enforcement operation has saved lives and reemphasized law enforcement’s commitment to keeping America safe from drug trafficking, drug abuse, and violent crime.”

2,960 Kilograms of cocaine seized

The Acting Manhattan US Attorney, Audrey Strauss said:

“As alleged, these defendants are responsible for the attempted importation of more than three tons of cocaine into the United States.  Thanks to the work of the DEA and the Mexican Navy, the shipment was interdicted and the defendants are in custody and facing federal prosecution.”

Homeland Security New York Special Agent in Charge, Peter Fitzhugh added:

“Cartels continue to operate with no regard for laws or human life, trafficking tons of deadly narcotics across the border and using bribery and intimidation to further their reach with government officials.  With HIS’s continued partnership with DEA’s Strike Force, three more alleged drug trafficking defendants will now face justice and three tons of cocaine will not reach our communities.”

This drug interception and the arrest of three people occurred when the Mexican Navy spotted and tracked a boat that was going through the Caribbean Sea headed toward the Mexican city of Chetumal and the village of Mahaual.  For whatever reason, this boat acted in a manner which brought suspicion and the Mexican authorities decided to investigate.

The Mexican Navy caught up to the vessel which was 85 nautical miles off of the coast of Quintana Roo.  When they caught the boat, they boarded and searched it, finding approximately 2,960 kilograms of cocaine. 

As a result of the drug seizure, the Mexican authorities took the three occupants into custody which were later turned over to US federal law enforcement.

The occupants of the boat, Raymundo Montoya-Lopez, Abraham Alfonso Garcia-Montoya, and Felizardo Diaz-Hernandez, were all turned over to federal authorities in the United States for prosecution. 

All three people are from Sinaloa, Mexico and have been charged with conspiring to import cocaine into the United States.  This charge carries a minimum sentence of 10 years with a maximum of life if they are convicted.

New York State Police Superintendent Keith Corlett said of the seizure and arrest:

“The combined efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement, along with authorities in Mexico, have put this operation out of business and disrupted the transport of thousands of kilos of cocaine to our streets.  This case continues our commitment and partnership to identify, arrest, and prosecute anyone who tries to sell these dangerous drugs in our communities.”

New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea also weighed in, saying:

“This case is another illustration of our joint, ongoing responsibilities in eradicating international drug trafficking.  Our NYPD officers, working with our law enforcement partners and federal prosecutors, follow the facts anywhere in the world to achieve justice, in this case interdicting nearly three tons of cocaine off the coast of Mexico.”

Of course, this is yet another example of dangerous drugs coming from Mexico and, in at least this case, attempted to be brought into the United States.  This is something that President Trump has spoken about on many occasions and the democratic leaders all say this is not happening. 

BUFFALO, NY – On August 10th, federal agents with the US Customs and Border Protection selected a shipment which was supposed to be seven skids of lighting for additional examination. Upon further inspection, agents discovered almost two tons of marijuana at the Peace Bridge.

While performing the  inspection, they located 14 wooden pallets which contained numerous cardboard boxes.  Inside of the boxes were vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana. Agents weighed the drug which showed it to be a total of 3,836 pounds.  Federal agents estimated the street value of the drug to be more than $8 million dollars. 

Commercial wooden pallets containing marijuana.
Courtesy of CBP.gov

Jennifer De La O, the Port Director, commented on the seizure:

“These CBP Officers have remained vigilant and engaged as travel restrictions at the border continue.  They have never let their guard down and their discovery of another large marijuana seizure exemplifies their dedication to the CBP mission.” 

The U.S Customs and Border Protection reports that they have seen numerous drug seizures along the border with Canada, and specifically in the Buffalo field office. They report from October 1st, 2019, through August 10th, 2020, they have seized more than 1,500 narcotics weighing over 27,000 pounds.

This drug bust was not the largest reported out of the Buffalo field office this year. On June 25th, agents at the Peace Bridge seized 9,472 pounds of marijuana that was located in a commercial shipment that was supposed to contain storage containers.

Vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana.
Courtesy of CBP.gov

CBP reported that a 26-year-old male who is a citizen of India and a Canadian Permanent Resident, was driving a commercial vehicle pulling a tractor trailer.

The driver declared that he was hauling shipping containers.  An inspection scan was performed on the truck, and the CBP officers noticed some oddities within the storage bins. After a tailgate exam, they discovered vacuumed packages which appeared to be marijuana. 

In completing a manual search of the vehicle and contents, they discovered 55 wooden pallet boxes that held marijuana in them.  The total weight of the seizure was 9,482 pounds, with an estimated street value of $20 million dollars. CBP notes that this is the second largest drug seizure recorded on the northern border and ranks at 23rd for the entire United States.

Port director Jennifer De La O commented once again:

“This was an excellent job by our officers from start to finish. From recognizing a shipment that needed further screening, to the identification of the anomaly during the secondary scan, to the coordination with our partners at Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) our officers are committed to intercepting these illicit drugs from being smuggled in.” 

The driver, who was not identified, was referred for federal prosecution which was accepted by the US Attorney’s Office.  The man was charged with possessing with the intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, and importation of marijuana into the United States. 

U.S. Attorney Kennedy stated:

“For the third time in as many weeks, the diligence of US Customs and Border Protection Officers has resulted in the seizure of literally tons of illegal controlled substance destined for our country.”

He added:

“In just three weeks, CBP officers have prevented thousands of pounds of illicit drugs, valued at nearly $30,000,000, from entering our country.  We will remain vigilant to protect our border from those who seek to profit from the importation of these illegal substances, as they not only fuel the violent drug trafficking organizations who distribute them but jeopardize the health and well-being of those, including minors, who use them.  Because the health, safety, and security of every American matters, do too do our borders.”

Kevin Kelly, the HSI Special Agent in Charge said:

“The resurgence of large-scale illicit marijuana seizures is alarming and brazen given the public health crisis.  HSI and CBP will always work together to thwart and deter those criminal organizations that attempt to exploit our borders.”
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