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CBP in San Juan Seized $27 Million found inside Boxes Bound to St. Thomas

On  August 29 U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers seized approximately $27 million in currency at Pier 10 in San Juan Puerto Rico bound for St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The cash was not very well hidden, the smugglers had used vacuum seal bags to seal the bundles of cash and then filled every day HomeDepot moving boxes, apparently they considered this sufficient concealment from law enforcement but were proven wrong.

Officers conducted an outbound cargo inspection on board the Motor Vessel (MV) Norma H II and during that inspection, a K-9 alerted on the pallets containing the moving boxes. CBP officers opened one of the boxes and discovered U.S. currency, further inspection of the pallets revealed a total of 34 cargo boxes containing additional undeclared currency. The currency was seized pursuant to bulk cash smuggling laws and based on the failure to declare the money. No one has been arrested yet, and the boat has not be detained.

“This seizure is a clear indication of the success of our joint investigative efforts. Puerto Rico’s geographical location, along with its status as a territory of the United States, makes it an ideal target for Transnational Criminal Organizations seeking to import narcotics into the Continental United States and facilitate the repatriation of their drug proceeds. To eradicate this threat, we will continue to aggressively attack their drug smuggling and money laundering operations – depriving them of their illegal merchandise, their profits, and a safe haven.” said W. Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.

The investigation is an ongoing collaboration between the CBP, the DEA Caribbean Field Division, HSI San Juan, the Puerto Rico Police Bureau and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico. Their combined efforts resulted in this seizure which represents a significant blow to Organized Crime groups and dwarfing other cash seizures made in recent months in the Caribbean.

August 11, 2020 $ 150,000 CCSF/AirTAT LMMIA, PR

August 3, 2020 $ 298,010 DEA/DNCD/CCSF Samana, DR

June 29, 2020 $ 2,241,610 CCSF St. Thomas

June 10, 2020 $ 2,254,378 DEA/CBP Vieques, PR

“This is without a doubt a historic money seizure in the Caribbean Region. Most likely more than one Transnational Criminal Organization is involved and seriously bleeding at this very moment.  We will not let our guard down, and we will continue our joint efforts between Federal and state agencies without rest.  Inter-agency efforts have been excellent and we’ll continue to achieve great results,” stated DEA Caribbean Division Special Agent in Charge A.J. Collazo.

In recent years it seems the bulk smuggling of currency has become a preferred method for drug trafficking organizations and other organized crime groups to move illicit proceeds across borders, When looking at the tracking data for this ship it seems to have made trips to the U.S. Virgin Islands from Puerto Rico numerous times before, who knows how many pallets of cash slipped through before this method was discovered? This may have been the first, but I highly doubt it.

Written by Simon Bolivar