KEY WEST, Fla. - More than 37 tons of cocaine with an estimated street value of $2.3 billion was being hauled off a Navy frigate Friday, adding to a record year of seizures as part of a joint effort to stop drug trafficking in the eastern Pacific.
The 75,000 pounds of white powder is from five separate seizures at sea between Aug. 31 and Sept. 26., the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement.
The largest cocaine discovery in the history of Coast Guard's East Coast operations was made Sept. 17 when a Coast Guard detachment from the frigate, the USS Curts, found 30,000 pounds - 15 tons - on the fishing vessel Lina Maria about 300 miles west of the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
On Sept. 23, a Coast Guard team aboard the USS Crommelin discovered about 26,775 pounds of cocaine aboard the fishing vessel San Jose roughly 650 miles southwest of the Galapagos.
That was the third largest such find in the history of Operation Panama Express, a joint effort between the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa, the Coast Guard, Immigration of Customs Enforcement, Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI and the Navy.
The task force patrols the eastern Pacific for possible drug shipments.
The Curts was designated to bring the hauls to the United States as evidence.
August and September seizures brought the total cocaine found by the Coast Guard during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 to a record 240,519 pounds, worth approximately $7.7 billion. The previous annual record was 138,393 pounds.
Thirty-one people were arrested in the five boardings and will face prosecution in federal court in Tampa.