Homeland Security leads Port of Philadelphia cocaine bust investigation

Paul Kurtz
March 21, 2019 - 1:48 pm
1,200 pounds of cocaine was seized at the Port of Philadelphia, valued at $38 million.

Paul Kurtz/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is leading the investigation into this week's big cocaine discovery at the Port of Philadelphia. 

At the U.S. Custom House in Old City, Philadelphia, on Thursday, law enforcement officials had stacked 450 bricks of cocaine wrapped in brown cellophane on a table, as investigators explained how they discovered the contraband Tuesday onboard the Desiree, a Portguese-flagged container ship. 

READ: $38 million worth of cocaine seized at Port of Philadelphia

"During an inspection of the shipping container, a [U.S. Customs and Border Protection> narcotics detective dog alerted us, and we discovered 13 large duffel bags," said CBP Director Joseph Martella says the cocaine weighed nearly 1,200 pounds and had a street value of approximately $38 million. Investigators now want to find out who owns the drugs and in what port they were stashed.

"The container was laden in Guatamala, and the vessel hit the Bahamas and was continuing on, foreign. So at any port, at any point, the duffel bags could have been placed inside the containers," Martella  said. "These vessels carry thousands of containers of various commodites from various countries."

Martella says this was the fourth-largest cocaine siezure of record in the Port of Philadelphia, and CBP's largest cocaine seizure in Philly in 21 years.