first_img U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested six longshoremen Dec. 1 at the Port of Miami. The suspects conspired to import millions of dollars worth of cocaine, heroin and marijuana from drug suppliers in Jamaica, Costa Rica and Panamá, according to U.S. officials. “The system must have integrity,” ICE Director John Morton said of the suspects at a news conference following the arrests. “Internal corruption of any kind cannot be tolerated…our ports are open for business, but only for legitimate business.” Charges were also filed against four others, including three men who remain at large in the Caribbean and Central America. The Jamaican Constabulary Force/Narcotics Vetted Unit, the Panamanian Sensitive Investigations Unit and Costa Rican authorities assisted in the investigation, a public affairs officer with the ICE Miami office told Diálogo. Members of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) smuggled narcotics on commercial vessels by placing the drugs in the chassis of cargo containers and in other hiding places throughout the ships, a three-year investigation revealed according to court documents. The drugs were often hand-carried by the longshoremen out of the port and sold on the street, U.S. Attorney Willy Ferrer told the Miami Herald. The investigation, dubbed “Operation Gangplank,” began in July 2009 after ICE agents and task force officers from the Miami-Dade Police Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) learned of the alleged smuggling conspiracy. The Miami Border Enforcement Security Task Force seized narcotics with a street value of more than $6 million, including approximately 72 kilograms of cocaine, 2.5 kilograms of heroin, and 1,648 kilograms or 3,625 pounds of marijuana during the investigation. Authorities arrested and charged longshoremen Albert W. Hines, 30, of Pembroke Pines, Fla.; Michael Canada, 30, of Miramar, Fla.; Alexander Terrell Pratt, 33, of Miami; Santonio Riou, 33, of Miami; Jessie Lamons, 58, of Miami; and Morris Henderson, 32, of Miami, who is currently in federal custody on ecstasy trafficking and weapons charges. Francisco Gonzalez, 52, of Coral Springs, Fla. Devin Jackson, 42, residing in Costa Rica; Climaco Asprilla, 37, residing in Panama; and Mickey Honeyghan, 39, of Jamaica also are charged in the 20-count indictment. Longshoreman Vondre Asbury, 24, of Miami, also was previously arrested in February 2009, and is currently in federal prison on cocaine trafficking and importation charges. Each faces up to life in prison if convicted on all charges. No details were released on how the case was pursued in Costa Rica, Panamá and Jamaica and the court documents lacked specifics on how the alleged smuggling was carried out. Officials at the Dec. 1 news conference highlighted the work of 21 other ICE task forces around the United States and in Mexico City that focus on commercial shipping. The Port of Miami serves about 20 shipping lines that call on 250 ports around the world. It handles more than 200,000 shipping containers per year. By Dialogo December 10, 2010last_img