A Florida wildlife manager searching for sea turtles at the beach made one “shell” of a discovery instead — $1.2 million in cocaine that washed ashore, authorities said.
Angy Chambers, of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, was surveying the beach on May 19 when she stumbled upon a small plastic package that was tightly bound with tape, US Space Force officials said Friday.
“I immediately contacted the 45th Security Forces Squadron,” said Chambers, a 45th Civil Engineer Squadron wildlife manager who was searching for sea turtle nests at the time.
“I called SFS back and suggested they bring their UTV, or utility terrain vehicle, as I counted at least 18 packages.”
A Brevard County Sheriff’s Office narcotics agent then responded to the beach and performed a field test on the 24 packages weighing nearly 30 kilograms – roughly 66 pounds – and verified they were crammed with cocaine, Space Force authorities said.
The value of the drugs was estimated at $1.2 million. The origin of the shipment is under investigation, but Department of Homeland Security officials said maritime drug traffickers often send controlled substances in bales consisting of 25 “bricks” – or kilogram packages.
The wrapping of the bales is sometimes destroyed during transit, leaving the bricks to become lost at sea and ultimately recovered along the US coastline, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent David Castro said.
Timothy McCarty, commander of the 45th Security Forces Squadron, told WFLA the seizure was a record bust at Cape Canaveral.
“This will be the biggest one that we’ve ever had at Patrick Space Force Base in the entire recorded history,” McCarty told the station. “It feels great that along the whole stretch of Florida that this much came up and didn’t get in the hands of bad people.”
Joseph Parker, a 45th Security Forces Squadron flight sergeant, also praised Chambers for being alert during her eventful sea turtle survey.
“We take pride in protecting our base and the surrounding community,” Parker said in a statement. “There is also a higher level of job satisfaction knowing that these drugs will not make it into our community.”