ALAMEDA (CBS SF) -- The Coast Guard seized more than 5,600 pounds of cocaine and apprehended five suspected drug smugglers from a self-propelled mini-sub in the Pacific Ocean off Central America, authorities announced Thursday.
The Coast Guard Cutter Waesche, homeported in Alameda, intercepted a suspected drug smuggling vessel, which was laden with more than $73 million worth of cocaine in early September.
The seizure added to the impressive total of more than 416,600 pounds of cocaine worth over $5.6 billion that has been intercepted by the Coast Guard from Oct. 1 2015 to Sept 30th.
"With every interdiction, we learn more about transnational organized crime networks that generate profit and proliferate power from a laundry list of illicit activities," said Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area.
Coast Guardsmen from Waesche launched two pursuit vessels with boarding teams and an armed helicopter crew to interdict the sub. Five suspects were removed from the vehicle and taken into custody.
The suspected smugglers had attempted and failed to scuttle the sub as water filled the smuggling vessel to just below the helm.
Two Waesche crewmembers boarded the vessel and began dewatering it which allowed boarding officers to safely remove over 5,600 pounds of cocaine.
"We were able to stop the water from coming in, retrieve 5,600 pounds of cocaine, and then unfortunately the vessel continued to flood and the semi-submersible was lost at sea," said Rear Admiral Pat DeQuattro.
The Coast Guard said they are seeing more and more of these little drug subs.
Their hulls are mostly submerged and the cockpit and exhaust pipes are visible just above the water, making them extremely hard to detect and intercept.
"Once we have a seizure, we've gotten much better at the inter-agency process, really the whole of government process, to interdict, prosecute these smuggling organizations," said DeQuattro.
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