Record Marijuana Seizure Unloaded In Jacksonville
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ The largest shipment of marijuana ever confiscated by U.S. authorities, 160 tons, has been unloaded from a barge that was seized by the Coast Guard as a stateless vessel, officials say.
The 175-foot barge was seized 900 miles northeast of Jacksonville two weeks ago but didn’t arrive here until Sunday afternoon because it could only be towed at slow speed, Coast Guard Petty Officer Robert Payne said today.
The street value of the 4,100 bales was estimated at more than $132 million, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Joe Dye at district headquarters in Miami.
″We don’t have anything on record bigger than this, domestically,″ said Billy Yout of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency office in Miami.
The tug pulling the barge was flying a Honduran flag, but the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Taney seized it as a stateless vessel because the Honduran government disputed claim of registry to the tugboat.
Seven Colombians and a Floridian, identified as Howard Pelchin of Odessa, were taken into custody, said Petty Officer Charles Briceno.
The largest previous domestic marijuana seizure was made by the cutter Courageous, which took 120 tons in 1977 from a ship off Louisiana. The largest previous marijuana bust this year was 65 tons seized by the cutter Tampa last month.
Dye said the Taney is the only U.S. military ship still on active duty that was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. The ship, based in Port Smith, Va., was commissioned in 1936.