$19M in cocaine offloaded in St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Hawk offloaded approximately 576 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated wholesale value of nearly $19 million, Friday at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg.

During an Operation Unified Resolve patrol on August 7, an HC-144 Ocean Sentry Aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Miami detected a go-fast vessel south of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico Command Center diverted the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo to respond. Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo's crewmembers pursued the go-fast vessel. The Royal Navy warship HMS Argyll, conducting a patrol as part of Operation Martillo, with a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment Team (LEDET) aboard, also pursued the suspected drug smuggling vessel.

The Argyll crew launched their smallboat with the Coast Guard LEDET aboard. The go-fast vessel stopped and the LEDET boarded the go-fast, detained five suspected smugglers and seized 18 bales of contraband, which later tested positive for cocaine.

The contraband and suspected smugglers were transferred from the HMS Argyll to the Coast Guard Cutter Hawk during an at-sea transfer.

The five suspected smugglers aboard the go-fast vessel will be turned over to federal law enforcement officials in St. Petersburg.

The Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo is a 110-foot island class patrol boat homeported in San Juan.

The Coast Guard Cutter Hawk is an 87-foot patrol boat homeported in St. Petersburg.

The HMS Argyll is a 436-foot Type 20 Duke Class frigate homeported in Plymouth, Devon, England.

The Coast Guard's efforts under Operation Unified Resolve contribute to the interagency results being achieved each and every day locally under Operation Caribbean Guard, which coordinates efforts between the Coast Guard, DHS and Commonwealth and Territorial law enforcement partners, working diligently to deter, detect and disrupt illicit maritime trafficking to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Operation Martillo is a joint, interagency, and multi-national collaborative effort among 14 Western Hemisphere and European nations to stop the flow of illicit cargo by Transnational Criminal Organizations.

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