Florida Keys

Miami-based Coast Guard crew stops 200-pound cocaine haul off Puerto Rico

The U.S. Coast Guard and Puerto Rican police stopped a speed boat Tuesday night in the Caribbean smuggling 200 pounds of cocaine officials say is worth about $3 million, the Coast Guard announced Thursday.

The speed boat was first seen by the crew of a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry plane based in Miami. It was heading south about 20 nautical miles of Isabela, Puerto Rico. The cutter Margaret Norvell was in the area and launched one of its patrol boats to intercept the vessel.

Before the boat stopped, its crew of four men ditched bales of what turned out to be cocaine into the water. The drugs were picked up by a marine patrol crew from the Puerto Rican Police Department, according to the press release.

The speed boat stopped north of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and the four men on board, who are from the Dominican Republic, were arrested by the Coast Guard, the press release states.

The crew of the Margaret Norvell, a 154-foot fast-response cutter based in Miami, offloaded the cocaine in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday. The four men suspected of being smugglers were handed over to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and will likely face charges in federal court.

The operation is part of an ongoing assignment the Coast Guard and other federal agencies are conducting with Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands law enforcement called Operation Caribbean Guard.

David Goodhue covers the Florida Keys and South Florida for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald. Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.