Coast Guard offloads $51 million cocaine shipment in Puerto Rico after Caribbean drug bust


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The U.S. Coast Guard announced Friday that it offloaded about $51 million worth of cocaine at Coast Guard Base San Juan in Puerto Rico.

Crew members from the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Etheridge and British Virgin Islands authorities seized 1,700 kilograms of cocaine in the waters northeast of the British Virgin Islands in August. The seized drugs are worth an estimated $51 million, the Coast Guard said in a press release.

According to the Coast Guard, the crew was alerted to a low profile vessel during a routine patrol on Aug. 27. A Coast Guard MH-60T aircraft flew over the water and was able to guide the crew to the vessel’s location.

“As the cutter Richard Etheridge closed in on the go-fast vessel, the smugglers proceeded to jettison their cargo and flee the area at high speed. Afterwards, the Coast Guard helicopter crew proceeded to assist cutter Richard Etheridge in locating the jettisoned cargo. In total, the crew of cutter Richard Etheridge recovered 57 bales, which tested positive for cocaine,” the agency said.

Multiple agencies, including the Caribbean Border Interagency Group and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force were involved in the disruption and seizure, the Coast Guard added.

“Despite the challenging sea state conditions and thanks to the close collaboration and coordination with our Royal Virgin Islands Police partners, our crews did an outstanding job in disrupting a major shipment of cocaine and keeping it from ever reaching the streets,” said Capt. Gregory H. Magee, Sector San Juan commander. “Our strong partnerships, as in the case of the British Virgin Islands and island nations throughout our area of responsibility, are key to achieving safe and secure maritime borders from drug trafficking and other smuggling threats in the Eastern Caribbean.”

“This is a great example of the close working relationship between the U.S. and the UK overseas territories,” said Detective Inspector Mike Jones, Head of Intelligence for the Royal Virgin Islands Police. “The excellent work of the U.S. Coast Guard forced the crew of the go-fast vessel to jettison their cargo. We will continue to work closely with all agencies and partners in order to disrupt and detect the movement of narcotics, illegal money and people trafficking.”

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