News Release
July 1, 2009
For Information Contact:
Waldo P. Santiago
Public Information Officer

Caribbean Corridor Strike Force Seizes Approximately $8.5 Million in Cash, Arrests Four Colombians

JUL 01 - SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF) special agents and officers arrested four Colombians and seized approximately $8.5 million in U.S. currency Monday, announced U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez.

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane detected a suspicious go-fast vessel departing Panama while patrolling Caribbean international waters June 21, and launched a helicopter to further investigate the vessel. The helicopter crew used warning shots and disabling fire to bring the vessel to a halt after the go-fast operator failed to stop as ordered. The crew of the helicopter was able to observe the crewmembers of the go-fast boat throwing multiple bales into the water, which were later recovered revealing approximately $8 million in cash.

The four-member Colombian crew of the go-fast vessel, Robert Hotivo, 43; Arnaldo Henao-Serna, 50; Manuel Carrascal-Reales, 48; and Abraham Carrascal-Carrascal, 31, were escorted to the U.S. Coast Guard base in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where CCSF agents arrested them for failure to heave as instructed and seized the approximately $8 .5million for further investigation.

A complaint was filed and the defendants were taken to the initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Bruce McGiverin and are currently detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center. Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos Cardona is in charge of the prosecution of this case, under the supervision of the narcotics unit chief, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanette Mercado-Ríos.

“These arrests and millionaire seizure are a clear indication of the success of the Caribbean Corridor Initiative,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “We will continue maximizing all of our combined resources to investigate and prosecute those who in flagrant disregard of our laws and way of life try to smuggle illegal contraband into our area of jurisdiction.”

“ICE is committed to continue working with CCSF participants in an effort to stop the movement of contraband in the Caribbean,” said Roberto Escobar Vargas, acting special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in San Juan. “Those who think that the Caribbean is an easy route to move contraband to the United States are seriously mistaken.”

“Law enforcement will continue to “hit” them where it hurts the most, in the drug traffickers’ pockets,” said Luis Fraticelli, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI-San Juan Field Office.

"DEA continues to fully support the CCSF initiative. Joint collaboration amongst all federal law enforcement agencies has proven to be the most effective mechanism to attack drug trafficking and bulk currency smuggling in the Caribbean" said DEA Special Agent in Charge Javier F. Peña.

The Caribbean Corridor Strike Force investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics utilizing the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Coast Guard.