The U.S. Coast Guard unloaded cocaine in South Florida worth nearly $500 million from 20 separate seizures in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
Coast Guard officials said in a news release Thursday the seizures totaled about 18.5 tons of cocaine. The recently seized drugs were brought to Port Everglades by the cutter Hamilton.
Authorities say the cocaine was intercepted along the Central and South American coasts by Coast Guard cutters and a Royal Canadian Navy ship sailing with a Coast Guard team aboard. A total of 35 people were detained.
"We are confronting criminals at sea, and you're never quite sure what will happen," said Capt. Scott Clendenin, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton. "Some of them don't stop right away and and we have longer term high speed chases."
The eastern Pacific is a prime smuggling route for cocaine headed to Mexico, where it is typically brought into the U.S.
"It's actually been a process of decades here as we constantly react to their changes in our tactics and procedures," Clendenin said.
Numerous suspected smugglers are being prosecuted by U.S. attorneys in California, along the East Coast and elsewhere as a result of the operations.
The drugs will be taken to the Drug Enforcement Agency for the investigation. Afterwards, they will be destroyed.