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Charleston Coast Guard cutter seizes 19,000 pounds of cocaine from international waters

Coast Guard Cutter James (WMSL-754) crew with 18.5 tons of intercepted cocaine on deck Nov. 15, 2018 in Port Everglades, Florida. The crew of the cutter James offloaded approximately 18.5 tons of cocaine in Port Everglades worth more than an estimated $495 million wholesale seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Crew memebrs are pictued with Claire M. Grady, acting Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary, Adm. Karl Schultz, Coast Guard Commandant, Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Rear Adm. Peter Brown, commander of Coast Guard 7th District (Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally.)

The crew of the Charleston-based Coast Guard Cutter James offloaded approximately 18.5 tons of cocaine Nov. 15 in Port Everglades, Fla.

The drugs, seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, were worth more than an estimated $500 million.

The drugs were intercepted off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America by multiple U.S. Coast Guard cutters, according to Joint Base Charleston.

The offload represents over a dozen separate, suspected drug smuggling vessel interceptions by the Coast Guard:

The cutter James was responsible for nine cases seizing an estimated 19,288 pounds of cocaine.

Additional seizes included:

  • The Coast Guard Cutter Bear responsible for one case, seizing an estimated 44 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Stratton responsible for one case, seizing an estimated 440 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Active responsible for two cases, seizing an estimated 3,148 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless responsible for two cases, seizing an estimated 2,050 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Venturous responsible for two cases seizing an estimated 3,100 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Spencer responsible for one case seizing an estimated 4,497 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Campbell responsible for one case seizing an estimated 5,441 pounds of cocaine.

"Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security are involved in the effort to combat transnational organized crime," states Joint Base Charleston.

The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with allied and international partner agencies, play a role in counter-drug operations. The fight against transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interceptions to prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys.

The Coast Guard increased U.S. and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones off of Central and South America, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy. During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by allied, military or law enforcement personnel. The interdictions, including the actual boarding, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guardsmen. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific are conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard 11th District headquartered in Alameda, California.

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