An Air and Marine Operations (AMO) aircrew intercepted two drug-smuggling boats resulting in the seizure of nearly $82 million in cocaine. One incident happened in the eastern Pacific Ocean while the second took place in the western Caribbean Sea.
An AMO P-3 Orion aircrew began tracking a go-fast vessel in the eastern Pacific Ocean on November 21. The aircrew contacted Panamanian law enforcement officials who launched two interceptor vessels to stop the boat. The aircrew directed the interceptors to the subject boat, according to information obtained from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.
The Panamanian interceptors stopped the boat and carried out a search of the vessel. Investigators found 2,511 pounds of cocaine. Officials estimated the seizure to be worth about $33 million. The law enforcement officials arrested the crew of three from the smuggling vessel.
The following day, the same aircrew conducted a patrol in the western Caribbean Sea and spotted another go-fast vessel. Panamanian officials launched an interceptor vessel and a helicopter aircrew to interdict the suspected smuggling vessel.
When law enforcement officials arrived the boat’s crew had scuttled the craft on the shoreline. Officials found 70 packages of drugs. Officials determined the drugs to contain 3,747 pounds of cocaine. The drugs have an estimated street value of $49 million, according to the press release.
In total, the single AMO aircrew directed the interdiction and seizure of 6,258 pounds of cocaine estimated to be worth $81.5 million, officials reported.
The P-3 Orion aircrew is assigned to the National Air Security Operations Center in Jacksonville, Florida. The Florida center partners with the Corpus Christi center to provide aerial surveillance of the coastal waters of North and South America. The aircrews actively work to detect and deter the smuggling of drug and human cargo into the United States.
“AMO interdicts unlawful people and cargo approaching U.S. borders, investigates criminal networks and provides domain awareness in the air and maritime environments, and responds to contingencies and national taskings,” CBP officials said in a written statement. “With approximately 1,800 federal agents and mission support personnel, 240 aircraft and 300 marine vessels operating throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands, AMO serves as the nation’s experts in airborne and maritime law enforcement.
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