Coast Guard seizes $34 million worth of cocaine in waters south of St. Croix


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ST. CROIX - The U.S. Coast Guard along with local and federal law enforcement agencies seized more than $34 million worth of cocaine and arrested three individuals on drug trafficking charges just south of the territory.

U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad said Wednesday that Allan Hasani Greenidge, of St. Croix, and Angel Luis Rivera Montanez and Angel Ribot Aquiar, of Puerto Rico all appeared before Federal Magistrate Camille Velez-Rive in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on Friday.

The three men were charged with possession of 5 or more kilograms of cocaine with the intent to distribute it after their go-fast boat was intercepted in waters south of St. Croix.

Castrodad said the crew of a patrolling fixed-wing aircraft from Air Station Miami detected a suspicious 30-foot go-fast vessel late on Oct. 17.

The vessel was spotted carrying three suspected smugglers and what appeared to be multiple bales of suspected contraband.

Coast Guard officials at Sector San Juan diverted a Coast Guard 33-foot Special Purpose Craft Law Enforcement pursuit boat from Boat Station San Juan and the Coast Guard Cutter Drummond to intercept the vessel, according to Castrodad. A Customs and Border Protection marine unit also responded.

A Customs and Border Protection marine surveillance aircraft guided the Coast Guard pursuit boat, and the suspected smugglers gave up as the Coast Guard boat came alongside their boat early Friday morning, according to Castrodad.

The crew of the Coast Guard boat boarded the vessel, detaining the three men onboard and seizing 25 bales of what was positively tested to be cocaine.

The cocaine and the three suspects were turned over to Customs and Border Patrol officers, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations, and Drug Enforcement Administration special agents in Ponce.

Castrodad said the drug shipment is estimated to have been about 2,500 kilos and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force is leading a criminal investigation into the case in addition to the arrests already made.

Castrodad said that since September 2012, the Coast Guard and other law enforcement agencies under Operation Caribbean Guard have seized 27,650 kilograms of cocaine worth more than $829 million.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi

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