June 18 (Reuters) – Federal authorities seized 16.5 tons of cocaine worth more than $1 billion from a ship in Philadelphia in one of the largest drug seizures in U.S. history, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.
“This amount of cocaine could kill millions – MILLIONS – of people,” Philadelphia-based U.S. Attorney William McSwain said on Twitter.
The cocaine was seized at Philadelphia’s Packer Marine Terminal, and members of the ship’s crew were arrested, prosecutors said.
The seizure ranks among some of the largest in U.S. history including a bust of 21 tons of cocaine in California in 1989 and 14 tons of cocaine confiscated in Texas during the same year.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia said it estimated the value of the cocaine seized at more than $1 billion.
Cocaine remains one of the most widely used illegal drugs in the United States, where most of the world’s cocaine is consumed, according to federal officials.
“There are troubling early signs that cocaine use and availability is on the rise in the United States for the first time in nearly a decade,” the U.S. State Department said in a global narcotics trade report in 2017.