Hidden Cocaine Shipment Seized From Container in Port of Savannah

File image courtesy Georgia Ports Authority

By The Maritime Executive 06-05-2020 03:52:06

The Port of Savannah, Georgia was the location for the U.S. Federal Government’s latest arrests on cocaine smuggling according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia.

According to prosecutors, an investigation into contraband shipped from the Dominican Republic led investigators with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection and local law enforcement agencies to a shipping container in the Port of Savannah. A subsequent search discovered approximately 50 kilograms of cocaine, with an estimated street value of $1.75 million, concealed inside the walls of cardboard boxes containing fresh oranges.

“As the Port of Savannah continues to see growth in volume of cargo processed each year, criminal organizations will continue to try and smuggle their poison into the U.S.,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Today’s arrests should serve as a warning to those organizations that law enforcement in Savannah will defend our ports and protect our communities.”

With the cocaine removed from the shipment, investigators maintained surveillance of the container which was picked up at the port and delivered on May 29 to a rented warehouse nearby. Three Florida men, Juan De Jesus Gutierrez, Jonathan Mejia, and Ricardo Sanchez Ortiz, all of Kissimmee, Fla., were taken into custody when they arrived at the site, opened the container and began unloading the boxes. They have been charged in a conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine.

“Interdiction efforts such as this play a key role in preventing the entry of illicit drugs into the country,” said Kevin Doyle, Georgia Ports Authority senior director of protective services. “Our Port Police investigators are honored to work with our federal partners to help ensure the safety of our communities and our global logistics network.”

While this was considered to be a small shipment of the illegal narcotics, it was just the latest instance the drugs had been found hidden in a shipping container in the Port of Savannah. Last October, federal agents seized 967 pounds of cocaine in a container of scrap aluminum and copper being shipped from South America to Europe. That seizure set a new port record. 

On average, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 63 kilos of cocaine per day across the United States in FY2018, roughly one tenth of the quantity seized at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard (575 kilos per day).