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Coast Guard Offloads More Than $93 Million In Cocaine

MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – The Coast Guard offloaded about $93 million of cocaine  Thursday afternoon on Miami Beach.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Legare removed approximately 2,800 kilograms of the drug from the ship.

September 4, 2014: The Coast Guard offloads cocaine seized at sea. (Source: Maggie Newland/CBS4)

The offload is a result of two successful drug interdictions in the Caribbean since August 23.

According to the Coast Guard: The first took place north of the Gulf of Uraba. While on routine patrol, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection plane spotted a suspicious speed boat. When crews were launched to investigate, the suspected smugglers threw several packages into the water.

"It was apparent they had what appeared to be narcotics and after we did the test they had bales on board of pure cocaine," said Boatswain's Mate Omar Castro with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard said four suspected smugglers were taken into custody and 32 bales of cocaine were found in the water.

The smugglers' boat was destroyed because it was a hazard to navigation.

In the second interdiction, a Customs plane spotted another suspicious boat off the coast of Panama on August 28th.

"Once they spotted the plane, they changed course which is suspicious for us," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class, Joshua McElhaney with the Coast Guard. "We asked them some questions and some of their information didn't quite add up, so we conducted a boarding."

The crew boarded the 165-foot Panamanian-flagged coastal freighter Hope II.

"We were approximately 24-hours on board before we got to a hidden compartment," said Castro."There was a hidden compartment and once we opened it we found all the contraband."

The eight crew members aboard the Hope II and the vessel were taken into custody and will be turned over to U.S. officials for further investigation.

The Coast Guard said the eight-member crew cooperated and was taken into custody.

"They were very compliant to everything we asked of them," said McElhaney.

Coast Guard members who seized the cocaine said this is what their jobs are all about.

"Sometimes we get a little excited when we find the amount of cocaine we found," said Castro. "It's about 2,800 kilos, about a ton and a half of contraband.  It's a great success overall.  It's our mission down there besides search and rescue. We're out there to cause an effect in the drug industry and I believe we made a little dent on it."

These interdictions were part of Operation Martillo, an international operation to fight illegal trafficking.

"It's a great satisfaction after being two months deployed and everybody's tired but you come home with a case like this it's very satisfying," said Castro.

The Coast Guard said each one of the kilos is worth $33,000. The drugs will be turned over to the DEA.



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