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Coast Guard officials show the seized ganja on July 21, 2014.

News Americas, SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Tues. July 22, 2014: Five people are under arrest and 3,500 pounds of marijuana seized aboard a Guyana-flagged cargo ship in the Caribbean Sea, south of Puerto Rico, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officials said Monday.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Northland said they detected a suspicious 68-foot motor vessel transiting the Caribbean Sea with five crewmembers onboard.

At a news conference in the U.S. territory’s capital of San Juan Monday, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Robert Warren said the vessel, An Nurl, was stopped last week some 200 miles southwest of southern Puerto Rico, near Cabo Rojo.

A boarding team found 3,591 pounds (1,630 kilograms) of  ganja hidden on the cargo vessel, he said. The haul was estimated to have a value of $3.5 million.

The individuals on board – Michael Dacosta, Shawn A. Ally, Nolan E. Connelly, Ron D. Griffith and Owen K. Drakes –  have been detained and will be charged for conspiracy to possess a controlled substance on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

The Northland handed over the drugs and alleged smugglers to Customs and Border Protection and Federal Bureau of Investigation special agents.

Since October 2013, the Coast Guard has seized 17,591 kilograms of cocaine and 4,341 pounds of marijuana during 25 counter-drug interdictions under Operation Unified Resolve, in partnership with regional law enforcement authorities in the Caribbean. The wholesale value for these seizures is worth more than $444 million.

If convicted, Dacosta, Ally, Connelly, Griffith and Drakes could face a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.

Guyana media reports claim the ship was registered to a local businessman and apparently carried rice between the South American country and Jamaica.

“HSI will continue working with our CCSF partners to investigate and prosecute those who, in flagrant disregard of our laws and way of life, try to smuggle or transport illegal contraband into or outside our area of jurisdiction,” said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “This seizure demonstrates what can be accomplished when law enforcement agencies work together with vigilance and a commitment to enforce our nation’s customs laws.”



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