Federal authorities made a record-breaking drug bust on Tuesday afternoon, seizing almost a thousand pounds of cocaine from a ship at the Port of Philadelphia.
The shipment was aboard the MSC Desiree, which was traveling from Colombia to Europe, ABC News reported. Bricks of the narcotic were stashed in duffel bags and stowed in shipping containers. Authorities impounded at least 450 kilos (992 pounds) of cocaine with a street value of $18 million.
That is a record amount for a cocaine bust in Philadelphia. In 2007, officials seized 864 pounds of cocaine concealed in a shipping container from the Dominican Republic. In January 2018, federal authorities seized 709 pounds of the drug entering the Port of Philadelphia.
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On Tuesday, authorities inspected the drug-filled container after noticing that the bolts on its door had been tampered with.
It's the second major cocaine bust on the East Coast in a month. On Feb. 28, authorities confiscated 3,200 pounds of cocaine, street-valued at $77 million, that had been hidden behind boxes of dried fruit on a cargo ship at the Port of New York and New Jersey. It was the largest coke bust at the port in 25 years and the second-largest ever.
Officials at the Department of Homeland Security said they don't know if the cases in New York and Philly are connected.
But cocaine production is making a comeback in Colombia, which is no longer eradicating coca plants. Federal agents have therefore been paying closer attention to tampered shipping containers.
Cocaine is coming onto the Philadelphia market "a lot heavier these days," Britt James Carpenter, an outreach worker with Philly Unknown, told ABC7. "Because with the amount that's out there, they're able to cut it with fentanyl and cause a rash of overdoses that way," he said.
Earlier this month, federal agents recovered 600 pounds of marijuana from a shipping container at the Port of Philadelphia. The stash was valued at $2.5 million.