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Feds Make Third Largest Cocaine Seizure Ever

July 23, 1991 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ A 95-mile boat, helicopter and plane chase off Long Island led to more than 5 tons of Colombian cocaine worth an estimated $861 million - the third largest cocaine bust in the nation.

Federal agents seized 10,771 pounds of cocaine Sunday from a fishing boat in the state’s largest cocaine seizure, officials said Monday.

The drugs were found after a chase off southern Long Island involving two planes, a helicopter and three patrol boats.

″Somebody lost an awful lot of money today,″ said Robert Bryden, special agent in charge of the city’s Drug Enforcement Administation office.

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The drugs, purchased from the Cali cartel, were being brought to New York by an organized crime family, he said. Bryden said he was not sure which crime family was involved.

The U.S. Coast Guard-led pursuit of the 85-foot boat Hunter ended as the boat neared Fire Island on Sunday afternoon, said U.S. Attorney Andrew Maloney, head of New York’s Eastern District. DEA agents and the U.S. Customs Service also participated in the bust.

The Hunter came under surveillance by air and sea early Sunday about 100 miles south of Long Island where radar tracking showed it made a rendezvous with a 200-foot ″mother ship,″ Maloney said.

Agents found 210 burlap bags, each containing about 20 brick-shaped kilograms of cocaine, concealed in cargo bins under the deck and covered with ice.

A Coast Guard cutter, a helicopter, a C-130 Hercules cargo jet, a Falcon jet and two 110-foot patrol boats participated in the tracking operation.

Maloney provided no details concerning the ″mother ship″ except that its ″precise origin is as yet unknown.″

The 5 tons of cocaine was worth an estimated $861 million on the street, said DEA spokeswoman Mary Cooper.

The bust ranked third in the nation, behind the 47,278 pounds found in a Sylmar, Calif. warehouse on Sept. 29, 1989 and 12,210 pounds seized Oct. 5, 1989 in New Orleans, Cooper said.

The biggest cocaine seizure in the state’s history topped the 10,486 pounds seized Nov. 3, 1989 from a Long Island City warehouse.

Peter Califano, of Staten Island, the boat’s owner, and John Saracco, 30, of Staten Island, were arrested and both were charged with cocaine possession, Maloney’s office said. A third man was arrested but prosecutors decided not to file charges and released him late Monday, Cooper said.

If convicted, Califano and Saracco face possible life imprisonment and fines of up to $4 million.