More than 16 tons of cocaine seized in historic bust at Philadelphia port, officials say

More than 16 tons of cocaine seized in historic bust at Philadelphia port, officials say

Federal officials seized 16.5 tons of cocaine from a ship at a Philadelphia port late Monday night, according to law enforcement officials. Prosecutors say the 33,000 pounds of coke - or 15,000 kilos - has an estimated street value of over $1 billion, making it one of the largest drug seizures in US history.

Investigators found the cocaine concealed in seven shipping containers on the cargo ship MSC Gayane at Packer Avenue Marine Terminal. The vessel was traveling from Chile to Europe and previously stopped in Colombia, Panama and the Bahamas. Officials believe the illicit cargo was loaded on board after it left its last port of call the Bahamas, according to NBC News.

"This is one of the largest drug seizures in United States history," U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania William McSwain tweeted. "This amount of cocaine could kill millions - MILLIONS - of people. My Office is committed to keeping our borders secure and streets safe from deadly narcotics."

In order to hook customers, traffickers mix cocaine with the powerful drug fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. The drug evokes intense feelings of euphoria at the risk of a fatal overdose in the form of a heart attack. Recently overdose deaths have been on the rise, increasing 34 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the CDC.

cocaine and razor blade Credit: Getty

The suspects' names have not been released and authorities are investigating the location for more evidence. "Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection are leading a multi-agency inspection of shipping containers aboard a merchant ship at the Port of Philadelphia," Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement. "We will release additional details when it is appropriate to do so."

Last March, federal agents seized 3,200 pounds of cocaine concealed behind crates of fruit on a ship at the Port of New York and New Jersey. The illicit cargo had a street value of $77 million, making it the largest cocaine seizure in the area for a quarter century.