FlORIDA-- A Coast Guard vessel has returned to port with millions of dollars worth of seized cocaine on board.
Crew members from the Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma, along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection officials offloaded a total of 88 bales of cocaine Monday afternoon. "Street value is approximately $80 million," said Deputy Michael Shea of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
They stacked the bales, weighing in at a total of nearly 6,000 pounds, on top of each other at the Coast Guard Headquarters in Miami Beach and stood behind it while brandishing heavy weaponry. "This is a lot of cocaine: 88 bales. Each bale weighs approximately 65 pounds, so it's just a little over 5700 pounds of cocaine," said U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Russell Tippets.
While on patrol in the Caribbean Sea, on Aug. 3, crew members aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Forward observed a suspicious 30-foot, Honduran-flagged fishing vessel about 27 miles off Honduras. The crew of the Forward boarded the vessel, discovered the cocaine and detained five suspects.
The five suspects and seized contraband were transferred to the cutter Tahoma who delivered it to Customs and Borders Protection officials ashore in Miami.
The five suspects are scheduled to appear before a federal judge in Miami on Tuesday and could face anywhere from 10 to 30 years in prison. "It's basically distribution, production, possession of narcotics on a vessel," said Shea about the charges.
Authorities hope this could lead to a reduction in crime and killings on the streets. "It's going to have a direct result of what happens in the community. This is not going to filter down," said Shea. "That's probably the most important thing ... It's going to make the streets safer."