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U.S. Coast Guard Medevacs Injured Smuggler, Seizes $20M in Cocaine

coast guard drug intercept
Seized: 1,000 pounds of cocaine and two Yamaha outboards, including one with a perforation in its cowling (USCG image)

Published Apr 21, 2021 2:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Richard Dixon offloaded nearly $20 million in cocaine at Coast Guard Base San Juan, capping off the interdiction of a suspected drug smuggling vessel off the coast of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. 

“Stopping illegal drug trafficking vessels . . . is inherently dangerous and involves a high level of skill and risk,” said Capt. Gregory H. Magee, Commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “These vessels represent a serious threat to the Caribbean region."

On Saturday, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection maritime patrol aircraft detected a suspicious vessel with three people aboard at a position about 40 nm to the north of Aguadilla. The cutter Paul Clark and a Coast Guard MH-60 helicopter responded to intercept the vessel.

The helicopter aircrew stopped the vessel and the crew of the Paul Clark conducted the interdiction. After the intercept, the crew found that one of the suspected smugglers was injured and needed to be medevaced. A second Coast Guard helicopter aircrew transported the individual to a hospital in Puerto Rico for medical care. 

The Paul Clark took aboard the two other suspected smugglers and recovered nearly 18 bales of cocaine, which weighed a combined total of more than 1,000 pounds. 

The three suspects are two men and a woman, all Dominican Republic nationals. They face the possibility of federal prosecution on drug trafficking charges. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico is leading prosecution efforts for the case.

“This Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation is one of several cases targeting transnational criminal organizations operating out of South America, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico,” said A.J. Collazo, DEA Caribbean Division Special Agent in Charge. “DEA will continue to work alongside other federal agencies as more seizures like this one can be expected.”