Coast Guard Captures Nine Drug Smugglers with $7.4M in Cocaine

drug smugglers
Nine suspects were detained as part of the cocaine bust in the Caribbean (USCG)

Published Jun 7, 2024 7:06 PM by The Maritime Executive


The U.S. Coast Guard is reporting a successful intervention this week that not only captured a significant amount of cocaine but also captured nine men operating the vessel smuggling the drugs. The entire haul was handed over to Drug Enforcement Administration authorities at Coast Guard Base San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Friday, June 7.

In the early morning hours of June 3, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernández located a suspect vessel, approximately 75 nautical miles south of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. According to the report, as cutter Heriberto Hernández approached, the crew observed the occupants of the suspect vessel jettison multiple packages overboard.  

Many of the vessels attempt to flee when detected but in this case, the cutter Heriberto Hernández successfully stopped the suspect vessel. Boarding the vessel they found nine men onboard, who claimed to be Venezuelan nationals.  They were taken into custody.

The cutter crew also recovered multiple packages of the jettisoned cargo and seized a total of 10 bales and two additional bags, with individual packages, all of which tested positive for cocaine. The total seizure is reported at 245 kilograms of cocaine valued at $7.4 million.

“We appreciate the efforts of Cutter Heriberto Hernández’s crew as well as the work and collaboration of all other Coast Guard personnel, units, and partner agencies involved in this case,” said Lt. Cmdr. Edward Kunigonis, Sector San Juan chief of enforcement. “The daily work and collaboration with our federal, local, and regional partners is critical to achieving successful outcomes like in this case to help safeguard the Caribbean region from this threat.”

The crew of cutter Heriberto Hernández embarked the nine detainees and seized contraband. Everything was later transferred to cutter Charles David Jr. for final transport to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Drug Enforcement Administration is now leading the investigation in this case.