Miami port workers accused of importing drugs

MIAMI --

Several workers at the Port of Miami were arrested Tuesday and accused of helping to bring in and distribute millions of dollars worth of drugs in an international operation.

A nearly four-year federal and local investigation called Operation Gangplank led to the arrests of six Port of Miami longshoremen and charges against at least four other men.

The probe, which began in January 2007, investigated a smuggling operation involving four countries and workers who agents said went to bold efforts to bring drugs to South Florida.

"I don't care whether it's narcotics, people or contraband, when there's smuggling, that weakens our borders and it threatens our security," said U.S. Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer.

Federal agents said the six longshoremen unloaded cocaine, heroin and marijuana from secret compartments on cargo ships arriving from Costa Rica, Panama and Jamaica and then took the drugs to the streets.

"Once the ships docked, the longshoremen would go onboard the ships and smuggle the drugs off the ship on their bodies to provide them to street dealers," said Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton.

During the three-year probe, agents seized drugs with a street value of more than $6 million.

"Make no mistake about it: This isn't about mom-and-pop misconduct. This is organized crime on a grand scale," Morton said.

The six longshoremen who were arrested live in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. They will face a grand jury and, if convicted, could spend years in prison.

Investigators said the probe continues.

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