NBC10.com - Ted Greenberg
A local coast guard cutter seized over 1200 pounds of cocaine during a high seas drug bust, according to investigators. NBC10's Ted Greenberg has the details.
A coast guard cutter returned to Cape May County, New Jersey on Monday after officials say they seized a boatload of cocaine during a 26-day patrol off the east coast.
Officials say the Coast Guard Cutter Dependable was on patrol on September 1, hundreds of miles off the coast of Massachusetts, when it found a 49-foot boat, carrying the name “Elegrance” and flying a Canadian flag.
According to officials, the sailboat was transporting more than 1200 pounds of cocaine worth about $20 million. Canadian authorities say they later discovered it wasn’t a Canadian vessel despite the flag. Prosecutors say it was identified as “Callisto,” whose last port of call was Venezuela.
The U.S. Attorney's office said 27-year-old Hicham Ramzi Nahra of Canada, and 49-year-old Benjamin Celma-Sedo of Spain, were charged in a criminal complaint Friday with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Prosecutors say the men had about 621 kilograms on the boat which was bound for Montreal.
Authorities say besides stopping the sailboat, the Dependable also rescued the crew of a fishing boat that became disabled at sea.
“We worked a lot of long hours,” said U.S. Coast Guard Ensign Bryan Andrews. “I’m very, very impressed with the crew and how they were able to perform.”