The 270-foot Coast Guard cutter Tahoma, shown here during a 2009 Fleet Week visit to Port Everglades, Fla., seized an estimated $90 million in cocaine during a Christmas week patrol. U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY CHIEF MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST DEAN LOHMEYER

Maine-based Coast Guard cutter nabs cocaine worth $90 million

ELLSWORTH — The Coast Guard cutter Tahoma returned to Kittery last Friday after a 49-day anti-drug patrol in the Eastern Pacific and Caribbean.

Tahoma’s drug interdiction efforts, including the interception and boarding of suspected smuggling vessels, led to the seizure of four pangas-open-hulled, outboard-powered fishing vessels common to South and Central America — transporting illegal contraband. The cutter’s crew confiscated approximately 3,130 kilograms (about 6,900 pounds) of cocaine with a street value of $90 million.

On patrol, Tahoma carried an armed Coast Guard helicopter detachment. The cutter’s crew also worked alongside U.S. and international partner agencies to detect and prosecute these cases.

Of the four seizures, three occurred within a five-day span over the Christmas holiday. Each case involved a high-speed chase by the Tahoma’s pursuit boat teams and use of the armed helicopter to disable the engines of fleeing suspect vessels. Those efforts resulted in the seizure of more than three tons of cocaine that authorities say was eventually destined for the U.S. market.

The Tahoma was deployed during a period of high flows of illegal drugs in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Tahoma sailed from its homeport in southern Maine to the waters off the coast of Central America, requiring a transit both ways through the Panama Canal. In total, the 270-foot medium-endurance cutter and its 90-plus member crew traveled over 11,500 nautical miles.

“I’m tremendously pleased with the professionalism, dedication and success of Tahoma’s crew and her assigned armed helicopter detachment,” Cmdr. Tim Brown, Tahoma’s commanding officer, said in a written statement.

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