Coast Guard seizes record cocaine haul from semi-submersible

By John McPhaul

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard Caribbean Corridor Strike Force unit seized for the first time in the area a semi-submersible boat with a record 2,500 kilograms (2.76 tons, or 5,512 pounds) of cocaine from Venezuela or Colombia, federal prosecutor W. Stephen Muldrow announced on Monday.

“The estimated value is $75 million. This is the largest cocaine seizure ever processed in the District of Puerto Rico,” Muldrow said at a press conference.

The bust was made by the sailors of the Coast Guard cutter Tampa, according to Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad.

Muldrow said that on April 14, a federal grand jury issued an arrest warrant against the three crew members of the boat: Arturo González Quiñones, Freiman Yepes Ospina and José Álvaro Córdova for conspiracy to distribute large quantities of cocaine in the District of Puerto Rico.

“And this is the first time that the District of Puerto Rico has filed charges under the law of intervention with a drug trafficking vessel,” Muldrow said, adding that the law is used when it comes to submersible or semi-submersible vessels.

Muldrow noted that in 2008 when he worked in Tampa, Florida, he prosecuted González Quiñones, a Colombian national, for drug trafficking. González Quiñones was subsequently released on bail in 2019.

The federal prosecutor said that so far this year authorities have far exceeded the amount of drugs seized compared to 2019 and 2020.

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