.The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Waesche from Alameda, California, working with the Joint Interagency Task Force South patrol aircraft from the U.S. Navy, intercepted a suspected drug smuggling vessel, carrying more than $73-million worth of cocaine on Sept. 6, Lt. Donnie Brzuska said in a statement. The ships have been out at sea until recently, which is why the Coast Guard announced the arrest on Thursday, more than a month later.
The arrest was made using two Coast Guard boats and an armed helicopter. Law enforcement found the five suspects and took them off the self-propelled, semi-submersible they were riding in, even though they tried to fill the vessel up with water to try and swamp it, Bruzuska said. But their plans didn't work. Two Alameda-based Coast Guard crew members were able to thwart that attempt and took more than 5,600 pounds of cocaine – nearly three tons- into custody, Brzuska said.
"Our Coast Guardsmen face significant risks posed by dangerous criminal organizations," Capt. James Passarelli, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Waesche said in a statement. "Our crew preserved valuable evidence and kept millions of dollars of illicit narcotics off America's streets."
This year alone, the Coast Guard has stopped six similar vessels, which authorities say are specifically constructed for illicit trafficking with a mostly submerged hull; a cockpit and exhaust pipe are visible just above the water. These types of vessels are extremely difficult to detect and interdict because of their low profile, Brzuska said.
In 2015 and 2016, the Coast Guard removed more than 416,600 pounds of cocaine.
The September bust marks nearly 86,000 pounds of cocaine, worth more than $1.5 billion, that have been intercepted by Alameda-based Coast Guardsmen this year.