AG Jeff Sessions travels to San Diego to announce historic drug - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

AG Jeff Sessions travels to San Diego to announce historic drug seizures

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8/CNS) - U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions applauded Coast Guard officials Wednesday in San Diego as they offloaded more than 50,000 pounds of cocaine and heroin seized from seafaring drug traffickers since the beginning of August.

Coast Guard officials said that with the most recent offload - worth nearly $680 million - the agency has now seized more than 455,000 pounds of drugs in fiscal year 2017, breaking the previous record of 443,000 pounds seized in fiscal year 2016.

This year's record-breaking haul was worth an estimated $6.1 billion.

"By preventing overdoses and stopping new addictions before they start, enforcing our drug laws saves lives," Sessions said. "This record-breaking year by our Coast Guard saw the arrest of more than 500 suspected drug traffickers and kept nearly half a million pounds of dangerous drugs from getting to our streets, and ultimately to our neighbors, friends and families. I commend every service member who has helped us in our mission to keep the American people safe, and I thank them for this indispensable contribution to public safety."

A crane and forklift were deployed to offload the drugs from the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal. The illicit cargo was seized in 25 separate operations conducted by four Coast Guard cutters based in California, South Carolina, Virginia and Oregon, plus the Navy's USS Chafee, based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

"These drugs represent the scale of the threat transnational organized crime poses to our nation and to all peaceful nations of the Western Hemisphere," Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said. "The Coast Guard and Justice Department, along with interagency partners, are determined to commit our efforts to detect, interdict, investigate and prosecute the entirety of these criminal networks and end the drug-fueled instability and violence in the region."

Coast Guard officials said they've also arrested more than 600 suspected drug traffickers during the fiscal year that's set to end at the end of this month, with information from the lower-level traffickers often leading to arrests of higher-ups in the organizations.

"From 2002 to 2011, information obtained from suspects apprehended by the Coast Guard contributed to the arrest and extradition of more than 75 percent of drug kingpins," the agency said.

Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson said the seizure of the cocaine in the Eastern Pacific means tens of thousands of pounds of the illicit drug won't make it into San Diego and hundreds of millions of dollars won't go into cartel coffers.

"To drug traffickers who may think they are invisible in the middle of what seems to be a vast, empty ocean: You are not alone. We are doing everything we can to prevent you from using the high seas as your personal freeway," Robinson said.

The Coast Guard and its partners are still processing all drug removals, but a preliminary total for fiscal year 2017 stands at 455,034 pounds of drugs seized, the agency said. A final, official tally will be released early next month.

Four men were indicted and charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute in the San Diego case.

Edinson Elias Castillo-Bustos, Redis Mina-Canga and Jose Sebastian Ardila-Meza, all from Colombia, and Edgar Anibal Rojas-Vanegas, of Guatemala, remain in custody in San Diego pending trial. They will be back in court Oct. 16.

Watch as @USCoastGuard and Department of Justice officials announce the offload of over 50,000 pounds of cocaine from the Cutter Stratton. 

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