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Feds show off tons of cocaine seized in historic bust

If you laid out the 15,582 plastic-wrapped bricks of cocaine end-to-end, they would stretch two and a half miles, officials said. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that some of the confiscated haul was recently put on display by federal law enforcement agents who said they seized more than 17 tons of the drug a few days ago at the Port of Philadelphia.

Six people have been arrested on drug-trafficking charges in what is being called one of the largest drug busts in U.S. history. The street value of the historic haul has been estimated at more than $1.1 billion.

“Thirty-five thousand pounds of cocaine is an incredible amount,” said the director of field operations for the regional office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “A street value of over a billion dollars is hard to conceptualize. Really, it’s just incredible.”

What was much less incredible was the explanation of what led officials to the cargo freighter, MSC Gayane, which contained the thousands of packages of cellophane-encased cocaine. The only explanation offered involved routine ship inspections and veiled references to partners in intelligence-gathering.

The agent in charge of the area branch of Homeland Security Investigations said that he could not discuss “the part of our trade craft” that ended in the drug seizure and arrests. All six of those taken into custody were members of the ship’s crew.

Officials said it is possible that an attempt will be made to seize the ship itself in criminal forfeiture proceedings, but that no decision has yet been made. “The investigation is ongoing,” said an agent.

If you or someone you care about believes they are under investigation by federal officials, contact a Chicago criminal defense attorney experienced in helping narrow the scope of investigations and even stopping law enforcement officials from pursuing unwarranted indictments.

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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