Authorities seize $29 million worth of cocaine in waters south of St. Croix

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The U.S. Coast Guard and Caribbean Border Interagency Group law enforcement authorities seized more than 2,600 pounds of cocaine, worth more than $29 million, and detained two Dominican smugglers in waters south of St. Croix.

Since May 21, the Coast Guard, in partnership with regional law enforcement authorities in the Caribbean, has seized 21,711 pounds of cocaine and 1,576 pounds of marijuana in 19 law enforcement cases, according to a statement issued by the Coast Guard.

The wholesale value for the seizures is worth more than $198 million dollars, according to the Coast Guard.

The cocaine seizure on Sunday was a result of a multi-agency law enforcement effort in support of Operation Caribbean Guard.

"This is the third major cocaine shipment this holiday season in the Sector San Juan area of responsibility in which the Coast Guard and Caribbean regional law enforcement partners have collectively detained a total of three vessels, six smugglers and kept over 4,847 pounds of cocaine from reaching criminal hands," Coast Guard Capt. Drew Pearson, Sector San Juan commander, said in the prepared statement. "Our efforts to stem the flow of drugs into Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as far off shore as possible is unwavering and will reduce crime across the region."

The crew of a patrolling U.S. Customs and Border Protection marine surveillance aircraft detected two men aboard a what they described as a suspicious-looking 32-foot Cuddy-Cabin power boat Sunday afternoon, about 60 nautical miles south of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Coast Guard diverted the cutter Matinicus - a 110-foot island class patrol boat homeported in San Juan - to interdict the vessel. The CBP aircraft crew assisted by providing coordinates to guide the cutter to the power boat's position.

The Matinicus crew boarded the vessel and found 40 bales of suspected contraband in the vessel's forward compartment, and a field test confirmed that the packages contained cocaine. The crew of the Matinicus took custody of the two Dominican detainees and 40 bales of suspected contraband and took the seized vessel in tow.

The Matinicus transferred the detainees Monday night, along with the contraband shipment and seized vessel, to awaiting CBP officers in Ponce, who in turn, transferred custody of the seizure to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations for further investigation.

Operation Caribbean Guard is a Homeland Security multi-agency law enforcement operation to support ongoing efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands being executed under the San Juan Regional Coordinating Mechanism/Caribbean Border Interagency Group.

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