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Cocaine shipment through Newark leads to 3 arrests in Spain, officials say

A cocaine shipment spotted by customs officers in Newark, N.J., helped lead to the arrest of three people in Barcelona, Spain, U.S. officials said Friday.

Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), along with the Spanish Guardia Civil, said they arrested Oleksii Stepanets, a Ukrainian national; Eduard Medvedev, a Russian national; and Edgar Palma Bofill, a Spanish national.

Customs and Border Patrol officers at Newark Liberty International Airport intercepted a shipment of pulleys containing approximately 2.23 kilograms of cocaine on Aug. 21, ICE officials said. The shipment originated in Costa Rica and arrived in Newark on a commercial aircraft, they said. The shipment’s manifest said it was auto parts destined for an auto shop in Barcelona.

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HSI Newark agents coordinated with agents in Madrid to assist the Spanish Guardia Civil in the arrests, officials said.

Besides the arrests, police seized a total of 2.99 kilograms of cocaine and “precursor chemicals” used to process the drug, officials said.

The arrests were linked to a previous seizure of 10 kilograms of cocaine at the Newark airport, officials said.

The total wholesale value of the cocaine is over $500,000, they said.

"This cooperation with foreign governments represents HSI's broad footprint that extends beyond our border," said Andrew McLees, special agent in charge of HSI Newark.

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The investigation was the latest in a series of drug-smuggling interceptions reported by ICE. Among others, which yielded larger drug seizures:

  • Two U.S. citizens were arrested and 1,048 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of $72 million were seized Aug. 6 from a boat towing a vessel off the southern coast of Puerto Rico.
  • Two U.S. citizens were arrested and 450 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of $10 million were seized July 31 from a suspicious 30-foot fiberglass boat with two outboard engines sinking off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico.
  • Six Dominican Republic nationals aboard a 25-foot unmarked fiberglass boat heading toward Puerto Rico were arrested and 330 kilograms and 1 kilogram of heroin with an estimated street value of $8 million were seized in early June.

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