MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – A U.S. Coast Guard ship returned to port in Miami Beach with millions of dollars of seized cocaine and marijuana in tow.
“We have more than 2,100 pounds of marijuana and 420 kilos of cocaine that won’t be making its way in the United States,” said Lt. Commander Gabe Somma.
The drugs were seized in two interdictions off the coast of Colombia.
On September 29th, the Royal Navy warship HMS Lancaster with a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment Team aboard spotted a 40-foot drug smuggling vessel with four people aboard in international waters north of San Andres Island. As a helicopter from the Lancaster approached the ship, it took off with crew members throwing the drugs overboard.
“(During the chase) they observed the smugglers jettisoning packages overboard,” said Somma.
The Coast Guard said the four suspected smugglers onboard the boat fled to Costa Rican waters.
“They initially got away. We were able to contact Costa Rican authorities and our international partners, they were eventually able to catch up to them and stop them,” said Somma.
The Lancaster’s crew was able to recover 50 bales of marijuana from the water.
On October 2nd, a Lancaster helicopter crew spotted another suspected smuggling vessel covered with a blue tarp in international waters near San Andres Island.
“The smugglers attempted to evade us using a blue tarp, it doesn’t work,” said Somma. “We’re going to continue to catch them and stop them.”
As the Lancaster’s chopper moved in for a closer look, crew members jettisoned bales over the side as the boat sped off.
The Coast Guard contacted a nearby Royal Canadian Navy ship which pursued the smugglers while the crew of the Lancaster recovered 15 floating bales of cocaine. Four suspected smugglers were taken into custody.
The busts are part of Operation Martillo, an international partnership launched in January 2012 to stop trafficking of illicit drugs, weapons, and cash.
“Our Coast Guard Law Enforcement Teams out of Miami have been very effective and successful,” said Somma. “We’re going to continue to stay out there and stop the drugs from coming in.”
Earlier this week, Air National Guardman Master Sgt. Martin Gonzalez, 39, was killed while working an Operation Martillo mission. The Miramar man died after his a plane working to spot drug smugglers crashed in Colombian jungle.
According to the Coast Guard in 2013 they confiscated 167,000 kilos of cocaine with an estimated value of $5.5 billion. In marijuana, the Coast Guard confiscated 75,000 pounds worth an estimated $16 million.
The Drug Enforcement Agency says the trafficking of cocaine from the Caribbean has doubled in since last year.