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Coast Guard offloads more than 17,000 pounds of seized cocaine in San Diego

Crew members from the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast load a pallet of seized cocaine during an offload at Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, San Diego, July 16, 2018. The wholesale value of the seized cocaine is estimated at more than $260 million.

FIREMAN TAYLOR BACON/U.S. COAST GUARD PHOTO

By ALEX RIGGINS | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: July 17, 2018

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — More than 17,000 pounds of cocaine seized by the crews of two U.S. Coast Guard vessels were offloaded Monday in San Diego.

The drugs, worth nearly $260 million wholesale, were seized from four suspected smuggling vessels in late June and early July in international waters off the Pacific coast of South and Central America, Coast Guard officials said. The cocaine was offloaded at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal.

The crew aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast seized more than 12,000 pounds of cocaine in recent weeks, including more than 11,000 pounds from a single panga on July 11, officials said.

“The suspected smugglers on that boat dumped their cocaine load and managed to evade capture following a high-speed chase, but the trail of cocaine bales recovered is one of the largest loads to be intercepted from a single small vessel in years,” officials said in a statement.

It was the first seizure of more than 12,000 pounds of cocaine from a panga since 2005, officials said, and the first seizure of at least that size from a small vessel since March 2016.

Additionally, the crew aboard the Cutter Alert seized more than 5,000 pounds of cocaine from two suspected smuggling vessels in recent weeks, officials said.

“I continue to be impressed by the dedication and tenacity of the crews aboard our cutters and the difficult, dangerous missions they perform,” said Cmdr. Alain Balmaceda, commanding officer of the Steadfast.

Both the Steadfast and Alert are 210-foot ships based out of Oregon. The drugs offloaded Monday arrived aboard the Steadfast.

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