Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Sailors aboard the missile frigate USS Crommelin stack up 525 bales of cocaine seized this week in the eastern Pacific. Officials are calling it the third-largest drug interdiction in history, totaling 12.5 tons of narcotics.

Pearl ship makes
huge drug bust

Two Honolulu-based Coast Guard
cutters also intercept cocaine
off Latin America

The Navy says the Pearl Harbor-based frigate USS Crommelin helped in one of two large drug seizures in the eastern Pacific during the last two weeks.

The Navy said the drug interdictions with the help of the Coast Guard occurred off South America:

» The San Diego-based USS Curts intercepted the fishing vessel Lina Maria 300 miles southwest of the Galapagos Islands on Sept. 17 with 15 tons of cocaine secreted in compartments. Ten suspects were arrested.

» The Crommelin seized 12.5 tons from the fishing vessel San Jose 600 miles southwest of the Galapagos Islands on Friday. Eight suspects were arrested. Members of Kaneohe's Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron Light 37 aboard the Crommelin assisted in the drug bust.

The Navy said the busts qualified as the two largest in the area.

Cmdr. Donald Hodge, skipper of the Crommelin, said that since the frigate left Pearl Harbor on May 10, it has been involved in three drug busts, seizing more than 15.8 tons of cocaine with a street value of $932 million.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard cutters Jarvis and Rush from Honolulu seized a total of nearly six tons of cocaine in the last seven months in the eastern Pacific:

» The Jarvis seized 2.15 tons of cocaine off a speedboat Sept. 9.

» The Rush seized 3.85 tons of cocaine from the fishing vessel Luis Angel in February.

That brings the total of cocaine taken by Coast Guard law enforcement detachments and cutters in its Pacific theater of operations to more than 91 tons for the fiscal year that will end Thursday.

"We are an integral part of the national and international intelligence communities," said Vice Adm. Harvey Johnson, the Coast Guard's Pacific commander. "Cutter and aircraft crews work with our law enforcement counterparts at home and in the eastern Pacific closer than ever before to increase the level of information-sharing and to decrease the amount of harmful substances that enter the United States."

The Crommelin's first drug bust occurred on June 22, seven weeks after it left Pearl Harbor, when it and the USS Ticonderoga recovered a total of 72 cocaine bales weighing more than 50 pounds each. The drugs had an estimated street value of $115 million.

A week later on June 29, the Crommelin seized an additional 50 bales of cocaine together weighing more than one ton, valued at $67 million. The bust resulted in the arrest of 20 suspects in waters southwest of Costa Rica, close to Panama.

The Coast Guard said its largest single cocaine bust before the Lina Maria was 13 tons seized aboard the Svesda Maru in May 2001, 600 miles south of Acapulco. This involved a Coast Guard boarding team from a U.S. Navy ship.



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