More than 7,000 pounds of cocaine that might have fetched $300 million or more on the streets of the U.S. instead were piled high on a Coast Guard dock in Miami Beach on Tuesday, the result of two separate drug seizures in the Caribbean Sea.
"It is one of the larger hauls the Coast Guard has brought in, in recent memory," said Lt. J.G. Meaghan Gies at a press conference in Miami Beach. "The main goal of the Coast Guard is to stop this bulk contraband, this cocaine, from [contributing] to the crime and violence of South Florida."
The 127 bales of drugs, brought to port by the Coast Guard Cutter Legare, were confiscated in recent weeks.
In the first drug seizure, a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment aboard Her Majesty's Canadian Ship Glace Bay on March 15 boarded a suspect fishing boat and found no drugs aboard. After boarding and searching the vessel, the boat caught fire, officials said.
The Coast Guard rescued six crew members without injury. They were identified as three Colombians, two Venezuelans and one Panamanian, the Coast Guard said.
While en route to Jamaica, where the crew was to be put ashore, the Glace Bay came across 97 bales of cocaine floating in the water, officials said.
It was unclear if those drugs came from the fishing vessel, and thus no charges were filed against those on board, officials said.
On March 19, the Coast Guard Cutter Legare tried to stop a go-fast boat in the Western Caribbean between Colombia and Honduras, Gies said. An armed helicopter aboard the 270-foot cutter was launched, and the crew fired warning shots from a 50-caliber machine gun to stop the vessel.
When the boat kept going, the helicopter crew fired another volley, disabling the vessel's engine. Those aboard began to jettison the 30 bales of drugs aboard, officials said.
The drugs were recovered and the five Colombians found aboard were turned over to Colombian authorities for prosecution, the Coast Guard said.