Aircrews assigned to U.S. Customs and Border Protection P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft assisted in the seizure of nearly three tons of cocaine during two separate missions. Officials estimate the drug seizures to be worth in excess of $76 million.
Air and Marine Operations (AMO) aircrews patrolling in the eastern Pacific Ocean as part of the Joint Interagency Task Force-South intercepted two “go-fast” vessels during two single-day operations on February 28 and March 2. During the first operation, the aircrew observed one of the vessels moving at a high rate of speed, according to information obtained from CBP officials.
The P-3 Orion AMO aircrew based out of the National Air Security Operations Center (NASOC-CC) in Corpus Christi, Texas, alerted law enforcement officials in Costa Rica. The officials from Costa Rica pursued the boat while smugglers began dumping bales of cocaine overboard. Officials eventually found the vessel abandoned. Costa Rican officials seized the boat and found more than 2,600 pounds of cocaine. They estimated the value of the cocaine to be $34,474,930.
Another P-3 aircrew spotted a second boat on March 2 in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Costa Rica. Local authorities dispatched two law enforcement vessels to intercept the suspected drug smugglers. Despite the effort of the suspected smugglers to throw the contraband overboard, Costa Rican law enforcement officials arrested three crewmembers of the smuggling vessel and seized more than 3,200 pounds of cocaine. They estimated the value of this load to be nearly $42 million.
“Our personnel execute complex aviation operations in some of the most challenging foreign environments to interdict the transnational criminal organization’s smuggling efforts,” NASOC-CC Acting Deputy Director Scott Peterson. “This interception illustrates why the P-3 program is the single most successful counternarcotics program in history.”
In total, the AMO aircrew members assisted in the seizure of 5,800 pounds of cocaine valued at more than $76 million.
Earlier in February, Breitbart News reported that AMO aircrews seized more than $140 million in cocaine during 49 missions that ended at the end of January. The missions covering a 35-day period during the partial government shutdown led to the seizure of nearly 11,000 pounds of cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean.