Coast Guard busted smugglers in the Caribbean
By: Brad Davis
ABC Action News
The Coast Guard Cutter Cypress docked at its port in St. Petersburg today and off-loaded more than seven tons of cocaine worth $180 million.
The Coast Guard Cutter Cypress eased into its St. Pete port with more than seven tons of illegal cargo.
Coast Guard District 7 Rear Adm. Bill Baumgartner explained the haul.
"They recovered over 14,000 pounds of cocaine," said Baumgartner.
The cocaine was aboard a self- propelled semi-submersible drug smuggling vessel that the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk located in the Caribbean on September 30th.
"When they stopped it, what they do with semi-submersibles is they sank it right away. So we were able to arrest the people that were operating it," said Baumgartner.
It's the smugglers, not the Coast Guard that quickly sink the vessel. The bust happened at night. Footage taken from a similar sinking just a few weeks before shows the smugglers jumping into the water moments before the vessel sinks.
"And then the Cypress came back, used sonar and went down with FBI divers," explained Baumgartner.
The divers recovered more than seven tons of cocaine. This bust is equal to one third of what all the law enforcement on the street in the United States catches in a year. A human chain of Coast Guard crewman off-loaded bale after bale. This is the third bust of a drug smuggling semi-submersible by the Coast Guard in the Caribbean since July.
"It's a new trend in the Caribbean because these are the first three that we've caught in the Caribbean. Out in the Pacific for the past four or five years there have been three or four dozen of them that we've caught out there. But it is a new trend in the Caribbean," said Baumgartner.
The street value of the cocaine is nearly $180 million. As massive as this bust is, the smugglers just keep coming.
"Unfortunately, a lot more goes through. So our job is to try and hit them hard enough so that it puts a bite on them. But we don't pretend that seizures like this are stopping all of their cocaine coming through," said Baumgartner.