By: Bethany Blankley
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations agents stationed out of Jacksonville, Florida, and Corpus Christi, Texas, confiscated a record 20 tons of narcotics and other drugs in two months.
CBP said AMO agents from the Florida and Texas bases seized nearly 37,887 pounds of cocaine and 1,518 pounds of marijuana in international waters between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2022, worth an estimated $77.3 million.
Twenty tons, 40,000 pounds, is roughly equivalent to the weight of a full school bus or loaded coach bus.
AMO interdicts “unlawful people and cargo approaching U.S. borders, investigates criminal networks, provides domain awareness in the air and maritime environments,” in addition to providing a range of support and interdiction efforts, CBP explains.
Multiple AMO “significant seizure events” occurred in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific in November and December, but two stood out, CBP noted.
On Nov. 10, a National Air Security Operations Center P-3 Long Range Tracker crew responded to reports of a suspect low-profile vessel in the Caribbean. They tracked the vessel and communicated with partner naval vessel teams, which resulted in the confiscation of nine bales of cocaine and apprehension of three traffickers. The vessel sank, but three days later it was recovered, and another 6,852 pounds of cocaine was seized.
On Dec. 15, AMO and Joint Interagency Task Force-South partners interdicted 1.9 tons of cocaine. Using a P-3 Long Range Tracker, they located a low-profile vessel in the Eastern Pacific and relayed the position to Southern Command partners. An international maritime crew responded to interdict, but the suspect vessel crew outran them. A Guatemalan maritime crew responded, pursued the vessel and successfully interdicted it. One Columbian national and two Ecuadorian nationals were apprehended, and 3,792 pounds of cocaine was seized.
AMO and the Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement have been partnering with Guatemala’s Navy, including providing vessel interdiction tactics training with Guatemalan forces to bolster their counternarcotics operations.
Nationwide, in fiscal 2022, AMO enforcement actions resulted in 967 arrests and 134,981 apprehensions of illegal foreign nationals and seized or disrupted 250,616 pounds of cocaine, 1,475 pounds of fentanyl, 25,625 pounds of methamphetamine, 1,342 weapons, and $21.7 million in cash.
These numbers are down from fiscal 2021, with the exception of fentanyl, meth and weapons seizures.
Nationwide, in fiscal 2021, AMO enforcement actions resulted in the seizure or disruption of 324,772 pounds of cocaine, 779,725 pounds of marijuana, 1,191 pounds of fentanyl, 18,548 pounds of methamphetamine, 900 weapons and $73.3 million in cash. Their efforts also helped lead to 1,119 arrests and 122,035 apprehensions of illegal foreign nationals.