Coast Guard, partners stop multiple smuggling events off Puerto Rico

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News Release  

U.S. Coast Guard 7th District Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands
Contact: Coast Guard 7th District Public Affairs
Office: 305-415-6683
After Hours: 786-367-7649
7th District Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands online newsroom

Coast Guard, partners stop multiple smuggling events off Puerto Rico

An overloaded vessel with approximately 35 migrants aboard is interdicted Monday, Jan. 7, 2019 approximately 34 miles west of Desecheo, Puerto Rico, as a result of ongoing efforts in support of Operational Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG).  

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard interdicted a vessel, Monday, with 35 Dominican migrants and 4 kilograms of heroin approximately 34 miles west of Desecheo, Puerto Rico. 

The crew of a Coast Guard Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry, deployed to Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico, detected the vessel Monday evening. Watchstanders with Coast Guard Sector San Juan diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez (WPC-1114), who arrived on scene, embarked the 35 migrants and discovered a backpack with 4 kilograms of heroin floating near the vessel. 

"While this interdiction is certainly a success of Coast Guard operational units through Operation Unified Resolve partnered with the Caribbean Border Interagency Group, it is also a symptom of a serious threat to our national security and maritime borders where narcotics smuggling is paired with illegal migrant ventures." said Capt. Jason Ryan, chief of enforcement for the Coast Guard 7th District. "Together with other DHS components and local law enforcement partners, we will continue to diligently patrol throughout the Caribbean Basin and Florida Straits to stem the flow of maritime smuggling and criminal organizations that bring violence to our shores and fuel the growing epidemic of drug use and overdoses throughout our country.”

On Thursday, 27 of the migrants were repatriated to the Dominican Republic, while the remaining eight were transferred into the custody of the Department of Justice's District of Puerto Rico for further investigation and possible prosecution. One of the individual’s is a suspected smuggler who is being investigated for participation in prior smuggling operations in which several migrants lost their lives. 

In the past month the Coast Guard and partners have made multiple interdictions in the Caribbean. 

On Dec. 24, 2018 a vessel with four migrants aboard were interdicted about 17 miles northeast of Samana, Dominican Republic and Coast Guard crews found approximately 100 kilograms of cocaine aboard. On Nov. 10, 2018, a 22-foot migrant yola vessel with 20 migrants aboard was interdicted approximately 3 miles northwest of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and Coast Guard crews found approximately 248 milliliters of Fentanyl aboard.

Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention. 

The cutters Heriberto Hernandez, is a 154-foot fast response cutters homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Coast Guard’s efforts under Operation Unified Resolve contribute to the interagency results being achieved each and every day locally under Operation Caribbean Guard, which coordinates efforts between the Coast Guard, its DHS, Commonwealth and Territorial law enforcement partners, who are working diligently to deter, detect and disrupt illicit maritime trafficking to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Caribbean Border Interagency Group was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA, for its Spanish acronym), in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.