One boat, one chase, $75 million in cocaine: a Coast Guard afternoon in the Caribbean
Cutter Heriberto Hernandez is a 154-foot fast response cutter home-ported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
By: David J. Neal
An afternoon Caribbean Sea chase involving a drug smuggler’s speeding boat and a U.S. Coast Guard fast response boat wound up with $75.6 million in cocaine in the water, the Coast Guard said.
The cocaine, 1,375 kilograms or 3,025 pounds, wound up on the Coast Guard cutter Heriberto Hernandez, which offloaded it in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday.
The agency said as the cutter Heriberto Hernandez patrolled the Caribbean Sea on July 16, the crew saw what it called a “go-fast vessel.” The vessel’s drivers noticed the Coast Guard cutter, too, and cut out while dumping some cargo, 55 bales of which the Heriberto Hernandez crew pulled out of the water.
The Coast Guard put the wholesale value at $38.5 million. As for street value, 1,375 kilos would be about $34.2 million in Puerto Rico, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimate of $24.87 per gram.
In Miami, where Narcotics News says the cheapest retail street price for cocaine is around $55 per gram, 1,375 kilograms that would bring in at least $75.6 million.
US Coast Guard Press Release:
San Juan, Puerto Rico: The crew of the Coast Guard Heriberto Hernandez (WPC-1114) offloaded approximately 1,375 kilograms of cocaine at Sector San Juan Wednesday, July 23, following the disruption of a drug smuggling go-fast boat in the Caribbean Sea.
U.S. Coast Guard 7th District Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands
The interdiction was the result of multi-agency efforts in support of U.S. Southern Command’s enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere, and during Operation CASTNET II, in coordination with Joint Task Force East (JTF-E).
Campaign Martillo (Hammer) is a U.S., European, and Western Hemisphere effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. U.S. military participation is led by Joint Interagency Task Force South, a component of U.S. Southern Command.
“I’m extremely proud of my crew as well as the performance and reliability of the Coast Guard fast response cutter,” said Lt. Russo, cutter Heriberto Hernandez commanding officer. “The crew’s proficiency in using all of the cutter’s systems and capabilities throughout our patrol, gave us the ability to effectively operate deep inside the Caribbean Sea which led to this successful outcome and prevented over a ton of cocaine from ever reaching the streets.”
The disruption and seizure occurred during a patrol the afternoon of July 16, 2020, when the crew of the cutter Heriberto Hernandez came upon a suspect go-fast vessel.
As the cutter Heriberto Hernandez closed-in to interdict the go-fast, the smugglers detected the cutter’s presence and began to jettison multiple bales of suspected contraband while fleeing the area at high speed. The crew of the Heriberto Hernandez conducted a thorough sweep of the area where the jettison occurred, and they were able to recover 55 bales of suspected contraband. The recovered bales tested positive for cocaine.
The cutter Heriberto Hernandez transported the seized contraband to Sector San Juan, where it was received by awaiting federal law enforcement agents in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Joint Task Forces East (JTF-E) is one of three Joint Task Forces established under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Plan (SBACP) to address the threats posed by Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) to the safety and security of the United States. Operation CASTNET coordinated interagency operations within Puerto Rico with the intent to disrupt and degrade vulnerabilities and increase the overall security of the island.
No news on the origin of the cocaine or the nationality of the smugglers. No arrests were made.