TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - The dramatic video of Coast Guard officers boarding a submarine carrying narcotics has ties to the Bay Area.
Last month, off the coast of Colombia, the vessel was reported to have about 16,000 pounds of cocaine, with a street value of more than $200 million, on board.
The attention-getting raid is actually part of a larger, on-going effort. From May through July, the Coast Guard has seized more than half-billion dollars' worth of drugs in 14 raids.
“What we want people to know is, about 85% of those drugs were interdicted as a direct result of the investigative casework done here in Tampa Bay by the multi-agency Panama Express Strike Force,” said Tammy Spicer, public affairs officer for Homeland Security Investigations.
Vessels like the ones in the video are rare but not unheard-of. Officials say they are tough to spot without prior intelligence.
“That boat is a needle in a haystack. The boat being the needle the ocean being the haystack. Our investigative work tries to help the Coast Guard hone in, so they can find that needle in the haystack, like they did,” Spicer said.
Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence was in San Diego to announce the massive drug seizures.
“When the red racing stripes of a Coast Guard vessel breaks the horizon those in distress know that help is on the way and our enemies know that their time has come,” the vice president said.
In total about 55 smugglers were arrested, five on the sub alone. Some of them will face federal drug charges in Tampa.