At the end of February, a massive shipment of cocaine weighing in at nearly a ton-and-a-half has been seized by United States authorities at the Port of New York/Newark, in what's being cited as the biggest bust at that particular port, going all the way back to 1994. The estimated street value of such a large quantity of coke? Authorities place it at around $77 million.
A bust this big (about 3,200 pounds of cocaine) evidently requires not just one law enforcement agency, but several, and this one was reportedly a joint effort between the Drug Enforcement Agency, Customs and Border Protection, Coast Guard, Homeland Security Investigations, New York Police Department and New York State Police. But it was the DEA's special agent in charge Ray Donovan that told NPR how the bust went down, starting when investigators found evidence of tampering on multiple containers on a shipping vessel from Buenaventura, Colombia. And now that the drugs have been seized, Donovan says, the really hard work is only now beginning:
"This is the type of case that will last years. We're investigating where it came from, where it's going, everybody and everyone involved…Any time an organization is moving that amount of cocaine, they've been involved for a long period of time."
The drugs were stopped at the Port of New York/Newark when the vessel stopped there on its way to Antwerp, Belgium, but authorities say they don't yet know whether they were intended to be delivered in the US or in Europe. Donovan explained that it was mixed in with a legal shipment of dried fruit, placed on the ship in such a way that suggests a somewhat savvy trafficking organization:
"The cocaine was loaded on the very tail end of the shipment…That tells us it was the last thing put onto the container so that it was the first thing to be taken off, which is indicative of a very sophisticated organization that's been involved in trafficking for some time."
The seizure comes as cocaine use is on the rise in recent years, particularly thanks to recent trends such as cutting it with the highly potent and relatively inexpensive opiate fentanyl.