Department of Homeland Security Helps Seize More Than Five Tons
of Cocaine from One Vessel in the Pacific
The Department of Homeland Security announced that a multi-agency
task force investigation based in Florida has resulted in the
seizure of more than five tons of cocaine and the detention of
six individuals aboard a fishing vessel in the Eastern Pacific.
The size of this seizure is significant for a single vessel and
highlights the continuing attempts by organizations to use maritime
routes to bring illegal substances to the United States.
On March 29,
2005, the Alameda, California-based USCG Cutter Boutwell, working
with a US Customs and Border Protections (CBP) aircraft, intercepted
the fishing vessel LESVOS, approximately 300 miles west of Mexico.
Aboard the vessel, the Coast Guard boarding team found 10,349
pounds of cocaine. Six crewmembers were detained.
is another victory in the security of our homeland,” said
Adm. Thomas H. Collins, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, “We
stopped the damage this cocaine would cause on American streets
before it even reached our borders. The dedicated supports of
our administrative, logistics and operational staffs, and the
sacrifice made by Boutwell’s crew and their families during
this long deployment have paid a huge dividend.”
seizure is a textbook example of law enforcement team work at
its finest,” said Robert C. Bonner, Commissioner of U.S.
Customs and Border Protection. “CBP is committed to denying
our maritime, air, and land borders to those who wish to harm
our citizens. This disruption of the illegal drug trade is part
of our defense in depth homeland security strategy.”
was the result of a multi-agency, collaborative effort under the
auspices of “Operation Panama Express” which is a
long-standing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation
based out of Tampa, Florida.
the “Operation Panama Express” team include the U.S.
Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, the U.S. Coast Guard,
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),
the Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-South), the Internal
Revenue Service – Criminal Investigative Division, the Florida
Department of Law Enforcement, and the Sheriff’s Offices
from Pinellas and Sarasota Counties.
and DEA agents on the Panama Express investigative team developed
intelligence that the LESVOS was transporting cocaine in the Pacific.
The agents passed this data to the Joint Interagency Task Force-South
(JIATF-South), which dispatched the CBP aircraft to locate the
cocaine-laden vessel. In addition, JIATF-South dispatched the
with the capacity to move this quantity of contraband in the holds
of ships pose a serious threat to our homeland. Battling this
threat requires an intelligence-based approach by law enforcement.
This seizure demonstrates what can be achieved when our drug interdiction
efforts are guided by quality intelligence – as ICE, DEA
and FBI agents jointly developed the information that ultimately
led to the interdiction of this vessel,” said Michael J.
Garcia, the Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary
for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
search, the Jacksonville, Florida-based CBP P-3 interceptor aircraft
spotted the LESVOS traveling off the coast of Mexico and passed
the information on to the cutter Boutwell while maintaining a
covert track. The Boutwell subsequently intercepted the LESVOS
and the Coast Guard boarding team found discovered 200 bales containing
the cocaine hidden within two fish holds.
crew was detained by the boarding team and will be transferred
to Special Agents assigned to Operation Panama Express in Guatemala.