ICE, Federal & Local Partners Seize $29M in Boat Smuggled Cocaine

Contraband has an estimated street value of more than $29 million
Contraband has an estimated street value of more than $29 million

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Caribbean Air and Marine Branch (CAMB) and the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) jointly seized 1,441 kilograms of cocaine Monday in Vega Alta.

The cocaine has an estimated street value of approximately $29 million.

On March 19, HSI Arecibo and CBP air units detected a 32-foot Century vessel north of Puerto Rico transporting what appeared to be bales of narcotics.

HSI agents, with the assistance of PRPD’s air unit, responded to the area and witnessed when the vessel crew jumped out of the vessel and ran toward a wooded area followed by those part of the offload crew.

SAC Baez with HSI special agents and CBP interdiction agents in San Juan. (Image courtesy of ICE)
SAC Baez working with HSI special agents and CBP interdiction agents in San Juan. (Image courtesy of ICE)

HSI special agents secured and seized the vessel and the 1,289 bricks of cocaine weighing 1,441 kilograms.

A Dominican Republic national was arrested in conjunction with the seizure.

“These enforcement actions show how HSI San Juan is proving to be a worst case scenario for criminal organizations attempting to smuggle dangerous contraband through Puerto Rico,” said Orlando Baez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan.

“The success of the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) in combating drug-related crime and violence is the reason the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created the task force in Puerto Rico.”

The HSI investigation is ongoing.

HSI agents enforce a wide range of criminal statutes including Title 18 and Title 19 of the U.S. Code. These statutes address general smuggling issues as well as customs violations.

(Learn More. Law enforcement can more effectively collaborate to form a force multiplier of resources and capabilities in the ever-expanding global world of crime. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) bridges the gap. HSI has the ability to follow the “pipeline” and to proactively pursue the larger networks of illicit activities. HSI can serve as a force multiplier from anywhere domestic; from Minot, ND to New York City – to almost anywhere around the world with our international partners, either through the Transnational Criminal Investigative Units (TCIU’s) – which expand HSI’s footprint and enhance cooperation between partner nations and the United States – or through our 63 HSI International Attaché offices. State and Local law enforcement has the ability to leverage HSI’s unique legal authorities and global footprint to help combat crimes in their community; such as the growth and proliferation of transnational crimes and the rampant and far reaching cyber crimes – most notably, the darknet. Courtesy of IACP and YouTube)


ICE also enforces Title 21, which covers the importation, distribution, manufacture and possession of illegal narcotics.

HSI agents have extensive knowledge of the border environment and techniques employed by smuggling organizations to transport contraband into the United States.

This expertise has been gained through years of experience in conducting undercover operations, utilizing confidential informants, special enforcement operations and conducting contraband smuggling investigations.

The methods used by smuggling organizations are always changing and through continued training, the use of emerging technologies and dedication, ICE has maintained its expertise in disrupting and dismantling these criminal organizations.

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ICE encourages members of the public to report suspicious activity by calling the toll-free ICE tip line at 1 (866) 347-2423, or by filing a tip online by completing ICE’s online tip form.