Miami-Dade County

Why were they stopped at sea? Their boats were stuffed with cocaine, feds say

Cocaine is offloaded at the Miami Beach Coast Guard station after a previous interception at sea.
Cocaine is offloaded at the Miami Beach Coast Guard station after a previous interception at sea. U.S. Coast Guard District 7

Two more cases involving of boats intercepted at sea while allegedly transporting bales stuffed with cocaine emerged last week in federal court records in Miami.

Three Ecuadorians were detained after their boat was intercepted near the Galapagos Islands and three other Ecuadorians were picked up after their vessel was stopped in the Pacific off the coast between Mexico and Guatemala.

The six Ecuadorians were then transferred to Miami where they now face trial on drug-trafficking charges. The arrests bring to at least 14 the number of foreign detainees picked up in boats that authorities say were carrying cocaine in the last 30 days.

Last month two other cases arose involving five Guatemalans, two Ecuadorians and one Colombian who were detained on two boats intercepted off the coast of Central America. The eight Latin Americans also were taken to Miami for trial.

These interceptions, coupled with the other two reported last week, are the latest in a long series of similar episodes in the past five to eight years in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific. Over the years, hundreds of Mexicans, Central Americans and South Americans have been detained at sea and then brought to Miami for trial. Many are now serving long sentences in federal prison.

In the two most recent cases, the first interception took place Aug. 23 when the Coast Guard cutter Mohawk began chasing a go-fast boat about 165 nautical miles northeast of the Galapagos.

During the chase, the Mohawk launched a helicopter to stop the speedboat, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The crew of the helicopter used a loudspeaker to order the go-fast to stop, but it ignored the command.

It was not until a helicopter crew member fired at the engines that the vessel stopped and its occupants raised their hands in surrender.

When Coast Guard personnel boarded the vessel they found bales containing cocaine. The crewmen were identified as David Alberto Chang Arroyo, Christhians Yeison Avila Bravo and Winston William Espinoza Estupinan, all of Ecuador.

The second interception occurred six days later some 210 miles southeast of the Central American coast.

The Coast Guard cutter Waesche spotted a go-fast boat in front of the Mexican-Guatemalan border.

The boat was boarded by Coast Guard personnel. The three crewmen — Adan Israel Colorado Reyes, Santo Hugo Pilozo Wila and Jhon Harbin Araujo Enriquez — said they and the boat came from Ecuador.

While the boarding party did not find cocaine on the boat, other Coast Guard personnel spotted 16 bales in the water near where the boat was intercepted.

The total cocaine seized in both interceptions was 1,355 kilograms, according to the criminal complaint.