Crew members aboard the Maine-based Coast Guard vessel Tahoma recently captured three suspected drug smugglers in an at-sea operation off the coast of Puerto Rico and seized about $16 million worth of cocaine.

The Tahoma, a 270-foot cutter with its home port in Kittery, participates in Coast Guard operations throughout the Western Hemisphere and was on routine patrol March 18 when aircraft spotters noticed a high-performance speedboat headed toward Puerto Rico, the Coast Guard announced Wednesday.

The Tahoma was diverted from its patrol in the San Juan area to the location of the speeding boat off the coast of Guayama, Puerto Rico. The Tahoma’s onboard tactical helicopter was used to stop the speedboat until another Coast Guard boat pulled alongside, the Coast Guard said in a news release posted on its website.

Once aboard the speedboat, they took into custody the three Dominican men and seized 14 bales of cocaine totaling 1,100 pounds. The captured men and drugs were taken aboard the Tahoma, according to the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard transferred the men and drugs to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday. The operation was part of a multi-agency law enforcement effort, the Coast Guard said.

“I am very proud of Tahoma’s crew and our embarked helicopter detachment for helping to secure our maritime border south of Puerto Rico,” Coast Guard Cmdr. Willie L. Carmichael, the Tahoma’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “It was truly a multi-agency effort to interdict the vessel and prevent over 1,100 pounds of contraband from entering the United States.”

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: scottddolan

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