On Wednesday April 12, 2017 US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) and Air & Marine Operations (AMO), seized 1,320 pounds or 600 kilos of cocaine.
AMO is a unique US Federal law enforcement organization that harnesses individual agency proficiency and incorporates them in advanced aeronautical and maritime applications. The US$17 million drug consignment was transported aboard an unidentified boat, navigating off Puerto Rico’s southern coast.
America’s Caribbean Island geographically bears Latitude 17.977 and Longitude -66.298. The Director of Air Operations, CBP Caribbean Air & Marine Branch, reported “a CBP DHC-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft detected a go fast vessel without navigational lights moving north, with two persons aboard.” Ponce Marine Unit deployed a CBP Interceptor to assist. The suspicious vessel was stopped, boarded and searched four nautical miles south of Salinas, PR. One Dominican Republic national and one Venezuelan arrested for possession of the twenty bales of cocaine hidden aboard.
Two months prior on February 13, 2017 “AirTAT” dismantled one powerful PR drug trafficking syndicate utilizing the Island as an air bridge. AirTAT is fourteen law enforcement agencies combined under the “Working Group against Organized Crime & Drugs.” The Trafficking Organization used San Juan International Airport to smuggle tons of cocaine to America’s East Coast. From 1998 to 2016 representative traffickers transported twenty metric tons of cocaine, valued US$100 million, from Luiz Munoz Marin San Juan Airport to US destinations.
In November 2016 two “facilitators” were arrested for trafficking more than 1,500 kilos of drugs. Since 2008 both facilitators acted as middlemen for DTO representatives and six corrupt Transportation Security Administration (TSA) staff. Collective responsibilities included concealment of between eight and fifteen kilos of cocaine per plane. According to the Federal indictment one facilitator worked officially as a TSA employee, the second a staff member of Luiz Munoz Marin San Juan Airport’s Aviation Services department.
As part of the illegal scheme his character role was positioning consignments on the luggage ramp, then accessing the aircraft and concealing the cocaine. The Aviation Services staff member also identified arriving drug mules and personally escorted them to the airline counter. He selected the security line and X-Ray machine manned by TSA agent facilitator number one. Cocaine laden suitcases were allowed through without alarm, the consignments loaded on planes traveling to Miami, Philadelphia, New York and Connecticut. From the 2015 start of AirTAT, 92 traffickers and money launderers were arrested, drugs worth more than US$5 million intercepted.
Eighty percent of cocaine consignments entered PR via Colombia, Peru or Venezuela and traveled onward to the USA, a style similar to the November 2, 2016 discovery of PR residences used as hoarding points, utilized. US Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents found 1,786 kilos or 3,933 pounds of cocaine worth US$45 million, in a housing project outside San Juan, firearms, ammunition and US$30,000 cash also confiscated from the residence.