St. Petersburg, Florida -- A Coast Guard crew from St. Pete has come home with an impressive haul: cocaine captured from smugglers worth $23 million.
The crew sailed into port Tuesday morning and unloaded their prize. It's 1,500 pounds of cocaine, seized southwest of Puerto Rico.
Stacked up chest-high in rectangular beige bales, it's an impressive sight. But it's only one of the highlights of this crew's return to their home port.
After more than a month away, it was a Halloween-themed homecoming for the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Venturous.
Family members snapped pictures and waved to the arriving ship as they stood under bunches of orange and black balloons, including some featuring smiling jack-o-lanterns.
And what a treat -- someone has learned a new trick.
On wobbly legs, one-year-old Anthony Gonzalez walked to his daddy for the very first time.
"It means a lot. It's a special moment -- a good memory," Anthony's mother Donna Gonzalez said.
"It's my husband. I'd like him to be home with me, but he's out serving our country. So I respect that and I honor that and I'm proud of him for that."
Dressed up like the brave Americans they are, this crew's five-week stroll around the Caribbean brought home more than two dozen "goodie bags."
Inside them is something a lot more sinful than sweets: $23 million worth of seized cocaine.
A smuggling speedboat got spooked and threw it overboard as a small boat from the Venturous got close.
"When [the Coast Guard small boat] got about 20 feet from them, they started jettisoning these bales because they knew that we were there," said Ensign Ryan Webster, who was part of the early morning bust in near-total darkness.
"They tried to get rid of the evidence as quickly as possible."
If they're going to be needed in a criminal trial, seized bales of drugs will be stored as evidence.
But in cases like this, when the drug runners themselves managed to speed away, the drugs will eventually be destroyed by the Department of Homeland Security.
Keeping that cocaine off the streets meant a successful end to the latest mission of the Venturous, which began back in September on -- when else? -- Friday the 13th.