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CBP-AMO and partners seize 17 tons of cocaine

CBP-AMO and partners seize 17 tons of cocaine
CBP-AMO P-3 crews and partners seized more than 17 tons of cocaine un internacional waters between November 1 and December 31.
Image: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations in Jacksonville, Florida, prepare to assist with rescue and relief efforts after Hurricane Maria passes over Puerto Rico.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Ozzy Trevino.

WASHINGTON. Thu, Jan, 19, 2023 —  CBP-AMO (Customs and Border ProtectionAir and Marine Operations), with federal and international partners, seized more than 17 tons of cocaine and 688 kg of marijuana in international waters between November 1 and December 31, 2022, denying criminal organizations an estimated $77.3 million in proceeds.

Multiple significant seizure events involving AMO National Air Security Operations Center P-3 Orion crews and SOUTHCOM partners occurred in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific during the reporting timeframe:

On November 10, a National Air Security Operations Center P-3 Orion Long Range Tracker crew responded to reports of a suspect low-profile vessel in the Caribbean. The P-3 aircrew assumed tracking of the vessel and communicated with partner nation naval vessel teams who recovered nine bales of cocaine and apprehended three people before losing contact with the partially submerged vessel. Three days later, the partner nation maritime team reacquired the vessel, conducted a thorough search, and seized 6,852 pounds of cocaine.

On December 15, AMO and Joint Interagency Task Force—South partners effected seizure of 1.9 tons of cocaine. A P-3 Long Range Tracker located a low-profile vessel in the Eastern Pacific and relayed the position to Southern Command partners. An international maritime crew responded to interdict. However, the suspect vessel crew outran the partner nation team. Guatemalan maritime crew responded to pursue the vessel and successfully conducted the interdiction. The partner national team apprehended one Columbian national and two Ecuadorian nationals and seized 3,792 pounds of cocaine.

This event highlights the success of a recent transfer of 39-foot Midnight Express Interceptor Vessels from Air and Marine Operations to the Department of State for donation to Guatemala Fuerza Especial Naval (FEN) for use in counter-narcotics operations in the Eastern Pacific. AMO also deployed Marine Interdiction Agents to provide follow on Integration Training in Guatemala as part of a multi-year initiative to enhance their maritime interdiction capacity. The vessels were officially transferred in early April 2021, and AMO agents conducted Integration Training in May 2021. A key reason for the transfer was to increase speed, range and capability of the FEN – a key partner in maritime counter-drug efforts in the Eastern Pacific.

AMO has P-3 NASO Centers located in Jacksonville, FL and Corpus Christi, TX. P-3 aircrews operate throughout North, Central and South America in defense of the borders of the United States to prevent attempts to smuggle persons or contraband and are vital in partnership with U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) detection and monitoring operations. This partnership bolsters support to U.S. and international law enforcement by sharing information and intelligence to help identify, track and disrupt suspected illicit trafficking targets.

In Fiscal Year 2022, AMO enforcement actions resulted in 967 arrests and 134,981 apprehensions of undocumented individuals, as well as the seizure or disruption of 250,616 pounds of cocaine, 1,475 pounds of fentanyl, 25,625 pounds of methamphetamine, 1,342 weapons, and $21.7 million.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the comprehensive management, control, and protection of our nation’s borders, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection at and between official ports of entry.

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