Almost 400 pounds of marijuana has washed up ashore in South Florida, mostly in the Keys, since mid-September.
U.S. Border Patrol agents, along with the U.S. Coast Guard, have recorded 15 separate drug seizures in different areas of South Florida, according to a prepared statement from Customs and Border Protection. In all but two cases, the drugs were found in the Keys.
Todd Bryant, Border Patrol Miami Sector chief, said the found drugs may signal a “shift in smuggling methods” by “transnational criminal networks.”
“There has been a significant spike in drugs washing up on shore,” Bryant said in a statement.
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Seizures in South Florida have nearly doubled. Customs and Border Protection recorded 49 seizures in fiscal year 2015. So far in fiscal year 2016, which ends Oct. 31, the agency recorded 95 drug seizures.
“If you are out on a boat or on the beach and you see a suspicious package, call local law enforcement immediately,” Bryant said. “Attempting to keep the suspicious package can place you in danger, as violent criminal networks will attempt to recover their narcotics.”
A large cache of drugs found floating offshore is at the center of a 2015 Upper Keys double murder case being prosecuted by the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office.
Homicide detectives say Jeremy Macauley, a charter boat mate, found between 14 and 15 kilograms of cocaine while fishing off Islamorada in the summer of 2015. His business partner in a tattoo shop, Carlos Ortiz,detectives say, tried extorting Macauley for money in exchange for not telling the police about the drugs.
Instead of giving into the demands, police say, Macauley shot Ortiz and his girlfriend, Tara Rosado, in their Tavernier home in October 2015.
Monroe County Sheriff’s Office communications officer Deputy Becky Herrin said most of the recent cases of found drugs are being handled by the Border Patrol. Sheriff’s Office deputies reported a “large brick” of marijuana washed up on Big Coppitt Key on Oct. 3, and a 3-pound brick was found onshore in Key Colony Beach on Sept. 22.
David Goodhue: 305-440-3204 @DavidGoodhue