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18 tons of cocaine valued at half a billion dollars arrive at Florida port

A pallet of interdicted cocaine being offloaded from the Coast Guard Cutter James (WMSL-754) by crane Nov. 15, 2018 in Port Everglades, Fla.

BRANDON MURRAY/U.S. COAST GUARD

By WAYNE K. ROUSTAN | Sun Sentinel | Published: November 17, 2018

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — More than 18 tons of cocaine worth an estimated $500 million have arrived at Port Everglades.

The haul, that was offloaded Thursday afternoon, is the result of eight U.S. Coast Guard cutters intercepting 15 different smuggling vessels and more than 50 smugglers in the eastern Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Mexico, Central America and South America during the past month.

Night vision camera video appears to show Coast Guard vessels approaching several small smuggling boats tethered together in a row and being towed. One person on a towed smuggling boat appears to be unhooking ropes or straps to dump cargo.

Another night vision video shows a Coast Guard vessel pulling alongside and boarding a partially submerged smuggling vessel and a fishing boat.

"This multi-ton offload of cocaine represents not just the work of the men and women of Coast Guard Cutter James, but that of our partners and allies that work every day to dismantle the criminal organizations that seek to profit from trafficking drugs and other illicit items to our shores," said the James' Capt. Jeffrey Randall, in a statement.

Port Everglades has been a frequent destination for Coast Guard drug enforcement missions.

  • About six tons of cocaine valued at more than $170 million were delivered Sept. 17
  • More than seven tons of cocaine worth $211 million were offloaded Aug.9
  • Some six tons of cocaine worth an estimated $180 million came in May 10
  • About 13 tons of cocaine and one ton of marijuana valued at $400 million arrived April 24
  • Over seven tons of cocaine worth about $190 million was brought in Feb. 13

In the past three years, more than 1.3 million pounds of cocaine worth an estimated $18 billion have been intercepted, said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, at a Thursday news conference at the port.

"In that same period of time we've averaged about 600-plus folks that were smuggling at sea that we brought here to the United States for prosecution," he said. "That's about 1,800 illicit smugglers taken off the water for prosecution."

The Drug Enforcement Administration takes possession the confiscated cocaine, documents what was seized, destroys most of it, and keeps enough as evidence to prosecute the smugglers, official said.

The Coast Guard and several U.S and Caribbean law enforcement agencies have increased their presence in the Caribbean Basin and eastern Pacific Ocean which are known drug transit zones from Central and South America.

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