Charleston Coast Guard cutter seizes more than 19,000 pounds of cocaine

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The crew of the cutter James offloaded about 18.5 tons of cocaine in Port Everglades worth more than an estimated $495 million wholesale seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally

The crew of the Charleston-based Coast Guard Cutter James (WMSL-754) offloaded approximately 18.5 tons of cocaine seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean worth over $500 million, according to a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard. 

The 18.5 tons (16.7 metric tons) of cocaine was unloaded at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

In a news release, Coast Guard officials said they worked with other U.S. agencies and law enforcement from other countries to seize the drugs from 15 smuggling boats off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America.

The haul represents 15 separate, suspected drug smuggling vessel seizures by the Coast Guard. 

The cutter James was responsible for nine cases seizing an estimated 19,288 pounds of cocaine. Seven other Coast Guard vessels contributed to the seizures that made up the 18.5 tons. 

The operation also led to the arrests of 49 people who will be prosecuted in South Florida.

Capt. Jeffrey Randall said the volume of cocaine being smuggled by water is draining the Coast Guard's resources. In 2017, the agency seized 226 tons of cocaine and brought in 708 suspects.

For more information on this seizure, click here