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CBP disrupts $840 million in cocaine smuggling attempts

Intercepted cocaine
smuggling boat

CBP Office of Air and Marine (OAM) P-3 aircraft, operating out of National Air Security Operations Center in Corpus Christi, TX, and Jacksonville, FL, detected four speedboats carrying more than 10,000 pounds of cocaine worth more than $841 million.

During the third weekend in May, CBP P-3 crews operating in the Eastern Pacific and Western Caribbean spotted these smuggling attempts on three separate occasions, said a news release issued on May 23.

A CBP P-3 aircraft from Corpus Christi was on patrol in the Eastern Pacific May 15 when the crew detected a speedboat moving quickly through the open waters near the Galapagos Islands. The P-3 crew coordinated with the Ecuadorian Navy to intercept the vessel. The efforts of this mission resulted in the seizure of more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine.

Another CBP P-3 aircraft from Jacksonville was patrolling the Western Caribbean on May 17 when crew members spotted a speedboat traveling at a high rate of speed north of a Panamanian island. The CBP P-3 crew coordinated with U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard to intercept the speedboat. The suspects began dumping their contraband and attempted to abandon the speedboat which was later found on the beach. This cooperative effort lead to several arrests, the confiscation of an AK-47 and the seizure of more than 5,000 pounds of cocaine.

Meanwhile, in the open waters near Colombia, a CBP P-3 crew from Corpus Christi was patrolling when the crew detected a speedboat with a crew attempting to camouflage its location using blue tarp. Upon realizing they had been spotted, the crew aboard the speedboat began abandoning its cargo while speeding through the water. The P-3 crew coordinated with Colombian law enforcement and U.S. Navy to intercept the speeding vessel which resulted in the recovery of more than 2,200 pounds of cocaine.

In the Eastern Pacific, on May 17, a different CBP P-3 crew operating from Jacksonville identified a speedboat attempting to evade detection by travelling at a high rate of speed. The CBP P-3 crew coordinated with the Colombian Air Force and a US Coast Guard aircraft to intercept the speedboat. The boat was disabled and towed into port where a search was conducted leading to the discovery of more than 2,500 pounds of cocaine.

“These disruptions are indicative of how successful a counter-narcotic asset the CBP P-3 program is,” said Tom Salter, CBP Director of National Air Security Operations in Corpus Christi. “It’s the right asset to support the Joint Interagency Task Force – South in its efforts to disrupt the transport of illegal narcotics to the U.S.”

During fiscal year 2012, the CBP P-3 fleet continued its anti-smuggling success by seizing or disrupting more than 117,765 pounds of cocaine valued at more than $8.8 billion, totaling 21.1 pounds seized for every flight hour, valued at $1.5 million for every hour flown, says the CBP news release.

CBP OAM P-3s have been an integral part of the successful counter-narcotic missions operating in coordination with the Joint Interagency Task Force – South (JIATFS). 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 land borders of the U.S. 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 detect, monitor and disrupt smuggling activities before they reach shore.



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