Last week, United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers arrested seven MSC crew members for smuggling cocaine into the port of Miami aboard the MSC Seaside, according to crew members wishing to remain anonymous.

On Saturday, November 17, 2018, CBP officers boarded the MSC Seaside after it arrived at the port of Miami and “busted a drug smuggling ring”  involving MSC crew members, according to other crew members with personal knowledge of the arrests. “A lot of cocaine was found on the ship. The drug smugglers are dangerous and many on the ship are afraid,” one of the other crew members informed us.

CBP officers reportedly found six kilos of cocaine and over $100,000 in cash.

Five of the crew members who were arrested were identified as Jamaican men were and taken into custody. At this time, we have not been able to confirm all of their identities with law enforcement. There were reportedly four women from South Africa who were arrested together with the five Jamaicans.

Two Jamaican crew members were held in jail over last weekend. They were subsequently released and taken by CBP officers to the airport and flown back to Jamaica. They were first fingerprinted and their seaman’s visas were canceled before they were flown back to Jamaica.

We have seen other crew members arrested for drug smuggling who were released who were treated in a similar manner. One such crew member was placed on the do-not-enter-the-U.S. list of U.S. immigration, as we mentioned in NCL Drug Bust Fallout.

There have been other drug busts involving both passengers and crew members involving MSC cruise ships in the past. In 2010, eight people were convicted of attempting to smuggle over 75 pounds of cocaine (worth many millions of dollars) ashore from the MSC Orchestra when it arrived in Dover from Brazil.

In January of 2011, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office with K-9 dogs raided the MSC Poesia at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale before it sailed and arrested a number of music fans on its Jam Fest cruise for a relatively small quantity of recreational drugs.

In August of 2013, the Spanish police arrested two crew members from the cruise ship MSC Magnífica, which docked in Spain on drug trafficking charges after they were caught with 15 kilos of cocaine on the cruise ship.

In November of 2013, a MSC crew member was implicated in a scheme to import ten kilos of cocaine from South America in Italy on the cruise ship MSC Armonia.

In March of 2014, the police in Brazil arrested a crew member on the cruise ship MSC Preziosa for smuggling cocaine.

November 26, 2018 p.m. update:

This evening the Miami Herald covered the drug bust and identified the crew members allegedly in smuggling the drugs.  MSC crew member Jamaican Damion Hawthorne (age 32)(From Ocho Rios)  recruited South African crew members Londiwe Shange (age 27), Wandile Mhlongo (age 29), Thembeka Sokhulu (age 36), and Viwe Tshaka (age 23). Jamaicans Errol Roy Sutherland (age 39) and  (age 27) were also allegedly involved in the smuggling operation.

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Photo credit: Dickelbers – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

The federal police in Australia report that its law enforcement officers and the Australia border protection agency seized thirty (30) kilos of cocaine stashed aboard an unidentified cruise ship which docked in Sydney on November 30, 2017.  Four passengers were arrested on the ship and escorted from the cruise ship – a 41-year-old Belgian woman and three French nationals, including a 61-year-old man, a 54-year-old man and a 32-year-old woman.

The Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force released a multimedia news release titled No Sooth Sailing for International Cocaine Syndicate, with photographs of the drugs and the suspects. The release did not identify the name of the cruise line or cruise ship.

The cruise ship originated in the United Kingdom. The arrests took place after a joint operation between the Australian Border Force and their counterparts in United Kingdom.

The Australian authorities have been successful making drug busts on cruise ships entering the ports in Sydney. Last year, authorities seized 95 kilos of cocaine that three passengers smuggled on a Princess cruise ship (the Sea Princess).  The question arises whether smuggling anywhere from 30 to 100 kilos of drugs aboard a cruise ship must involve help from crew members.  Given the use of screening equipment on cruise ships, some people M/S Astor - Cruise and Maritime Voyagesquestion whether the drugs were loaded onto the ship along with food and provisions and then transferred to the passengers to be smuggled off the ship in their luggage.

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Hat tip to Crew Center where I first learned of the drug bust.

Update: The cruise ship where the drug bust occured is the M/S Astor, operated by Cruise & Maritime Voyages, according to several individuals familiar with the cruise ports in Austrralia. The Astor was docked at the White Bay Cruise Terminal at the time of the drug sizure and arrests.

Photo credit: Australian Government (top and bottom); Bahnfrend – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia (M/S Astor).

Cruise Ship Drug Bust - Sydney

 

What’s the easiest way to move cocaine from Colombia to the United States? Taking it through the jungle in Honduras and then through Belize or Guatemala to Mexico and then across the border to the U.S.? No, that’s too much work. How about just putting it on a U.S. based cruise ship in the Caribbean and sailing the coke to a port in Florida?

That what a handful of crew members working for Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) apparently thought and allegedly did. 

Five NCL crew members on the Norwegian Sun were arrested in Tampa when the cruise NCL Roatan Cruise Cocaine ship returned from Roatan where the crew members picked up the drugs. The Tampa Bay Times identified the crew members as Jason Leon Carmichael (photo right)(age 21), Arkine John (21), Alfred Kernel Ince (24), Teffan Delice (29), and Johnson Cherubin, (30). The Hillsborough County booking records indicate that they work for NCL as utility workers in the Norwegian Sun’s galley. 

You can see photos of the other utility cruise ship workers on our Facebook page here.

The Tampa Bay Times said that four of the crew members concealed seven kilograms of cocaine in spandex underwear.  The newspaper also says that the knuckle-headed men made the "mistake of appearing unduly anxious on cell phones Sunday outside a port-side Hooters restaurant, inviting surveillance from Homeland Security Investigations agents."

Later two women arrived to pick up the dope from the cruise line dopes. The women were later apprehended driving on Interstate 75 by the Pasco County Sherrif’s office. The women were identified as Simone Natoya Walters (34) and Semarie Gailann Paul (39). 

The crew members reportedly were found with around $50,000 in cash on them and Western Union receipts showing they had wired money to other unidentified persons. 

Cocaine sells on the streets of Florida for around $20,000 to $30,000 a kilo. A cruise ship utility galley member earns around $600 a month.    

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Photo Credit: Hillsborough County Sherrif’s Office 

U.S. Customs busted four passengers for drugs in two separate incidents this week aboard Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas cruise ship.    

Accordingly to Hispanically Speaking News,  U.S. Customs officers seized cocaine and heroin aboard the Serenade of the Seas when the cruise ship was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Customs officers conducted a random inspection of ship cabins. During the search, a K-9 dogs alerted to the smell of narcotics which led the officers to three brick size cocaine packages Serenade of the Seas - Drug Bust - Heroin - Cocainebetween the passenger beds.  The estimated value of the seized cocaine was $84,000. 

In a separate incident, the officers inspected luggage which exposed a large number of shoes that yielded a brown powdery substance. The officers found heroin wrapped in duct tape inside the shoes with a street value over $300,000.

BYM Marine & Maritime News identifies the passengers in the cocaine smuggling incident as U.S. citizens Melinda Ivette Quiñones-Cruz, age 28, and Cristian Gabriel Oquendo-Lopez, 21, and in the heroin arrest Diana Hortencia Latigua-Lorenzo, age 32, a U.S. citizen, and her brother, Breidy Latigua-Lorenzo, 20, a citizen of the Dominican Republic. 

We have written about the dangers posed by using cruise ships to smuggle drugs into the U.S. in prior blogs articles.  Many crew employees we talk to, especially cabin attendants, are frightened of the prospect of discovering drugs in the cabins they are responsible for cleaning, and are concerned with the possibility of retaliation by a passenger or other crew member.

Many of the drug busts are due to random inspections of the cabins.  Other arrests occur after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers analyze the advanced listing of passengers and crew through APIS, the Advanced Passenger Information System. 

 

Photo credit:   photobucket DeltaBlues2007