NBC NEWS – The more than 18,000 pounds of cocaine were the result of six separate drug smuggling events and interdictions, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
Over 9 tons of cocaine from six separate drug smuggling events were offloaded in San Diego on Wednesday, authorities said.
The cocaine has an estimated street value of more than $239 million. It was recovered off the coasts of Mexico, Central America, and South America by two U.S. Coast Guard ships in November, the USCG said in a press release .
The largest offload, weighing more than 5,500 lbs., was recovered by Coast Guard Cutter Waesche on Nov. 20. It was found on a narco-submarine.
“Our last interdiction of a semi-submersible vessel was noteworthy since it was the first semi-submersible interdicted in the Eastern Pacific in over three years,” said Captain Robert Mohr, the commanding officer of the Waesche.
Coast Guard Cutter Waesche is a 418 foot long National Security Cutter, a type of ship used to support maritime homeland security and defense missions. The ship is one of eight of its class operated by the Coast Guard, and has a home port in Alameda, California.
Coast Guard Active, a smaller ship assigned primarily to law enforcement and search and rescue missions, recovered nearly 4,000 lbs. of cocaine from two of the six operations.
More than 40 tons of cocaine were seized in 2023 according to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, making it the third most seized drug behind Marijuana and Methamphetamines.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Tara McGrath thanked the Coast Guard for its assistance in the fight against drug cartels in the state.
“The significance of keeping this much cocaine from reaching our shores and streets is, no doubt, life-changing,” said McGrath. “Without these 9 tons of cocaine on American streets, fewer people will have access to this toxic poison, and hundreds of millions of dollars will not make it into cartel coffers.”
According to statistics from the U.S. Sentencing Commission from 2020, the average sentence for powder cocaine trafficking was five and a half years.
15,000 kilos of cocaine, worth $1 billion, were recovered at a Philadelphia shipping port in 2019, one of the biggest drug seizures in U.S. history.