CBP seizes over 17.5 tons of cocaine in Philadelphia

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)-led multiagency examination of shipping containers at the Philadelphia seaport netted a historic load of cocaine. The largest cocaine seizure in the 230-year history of U.S. Customs and CBP had an estimated weight of over 17.5 tons and a street value of about $1.1 billion.

During a midstream joint boarding June 16, CBP, HSI, and U.S. Coast Guard authorities detected anomalies while examining seven shipping containers aboard the MSC Gayane, a 1,030-foot Liberian-flagged container ship. The boarding team escorted the ship to its berth in South Philadelphia and continued its inspection.

The containers were unloaded from the vessel Monday afternoon and CBP confirmed the presence of anomalies. CBP escorted the containers to CBP’s Centralized Examination Station, where CBP officers offloaded truckloads of packages from the containers.

A combined 15,582 bricks, totaling more than 35,000 lbs. of a white, powdery substance, which tested positive for cocaine. CBP seized the cocaine as well as $56,330 found on the vessel believed to be proceeds from illegal activity. A multiagency team continues to inspect containers aboard the vessel.

HSI agents made six arrests and investigation continues. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is prosecuting. In addition to CBP and HSI, the multiagency team consisted of the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Investigative Service, Philadelphia Police Department, Delaware State Police, and Pennsylvania State Police.  All contributed to the seizure.

“This is momentous work by the CBP team at the Port of Philadelphia,” said Casey Durst, CBP’s director of field operations in Baltimore. “Their vigilance and inspectional scrutiny resulted in the interception of the largest seizure of cocaine in the 230 history of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  Because of our officers’ efforts, over one billion dollars of dangerous narcotics was taken off the streets.”

“This week’s cocaine seizure is a tremendous accomplishment that demonstrates the combined power of HSI’s collaboration with CBP, the Coast Guard and our state and local law enforcement partners,” said Marlon Miller of HSI Philadelphia.

“The combined expertise, readiness, and responsiveness of this joint law enforcement team shows how training and cooperation prevents contraband from entering our ports and harming our communities,” said Capt. Scott Anderson, commander of Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay and Captain of the Port. “The seamless coordination between Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay, Coast Guard Investigative Services, Maritime Safety and Security Team New York, Coast Guard Stations Cape May and Philadelphia, and Joint Task Force-East, working alongside our federal, state, and local partners, amplifies our ability to interdict contraband on both the open seas and in our ports.”

The contents of the shipping containers included wine, coated paperboard, vegetable extracts, and dried nuts from Chile, carbon black from Colombia, and scrap metal batteries from United Arab Emirates. They were destined to Ireland, Nigeria, South Africa, Lebanon, India, and Haiti.

The MSC Gayane made port calls to Chile, Peru, Panama and the Bahamas before arriving in Philadelphia.

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