The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Sitkinak pulled into the Miami Beach Coast Guard station Tuesday morning showing off what it called a "historic" cocaine haul made possible through joint operations with the British Royal Fleet.
Several officers unloaded 2,500 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated street value of more than $37 million. The drugs were seized just south of the Dominican Republic in the early morning hours of Jan. 22.
According to U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma, officers aboard the 110-foot island class cutter spotted a 25-foot go-fast boat with two outboard engines -and "very visible packages on the deck" - then notified the British vessel Wave Knight.
As the alleged smugglers began to dump the 45 prepackaged bricks containing the cocaine into the ocean, a Coast Guard helicopter was launched from the deck of the Wave Knight, warning shots were fired, and the drugs were recovered.
Four men were taken into custody and handed over to federal law enforcement officials. Coast Guard Lt. Junior Grade Officer Meaghan Gies said the U.S. and the British fleet have been undergoing joint operations in the region for several years, but the Jan. 22 seizure marked the first time a U.S. helicopter was launched from a British ship.
The contraband was originally stored aboard the Wave Knight, then transferred to the Sitkinak at sea. The alleged smugglers were brought ashore and transferred to federal agents.