Three Washington-area men were taken into custody on smuggling charges before their 51-foot boat sank in heavy seas off the New Jersey coast over the weekend with about 11 tons of marijuana on board, authorities reported.
The Coast Guard "tried everything they could" to save the boat, which foundered Saturday with an estimated 400 bales of marijuana aboard, according to Dennis H. Murphy, a spokesman for the New York region of the U.S. Customs Service.
Murphy said the vessel, which he called "really a tub," sank in 9,000 feet of water after marijuana floating in the hold fouled pumps the Coast Guard brought aboard to try to keep the vessel afloat in eight-foot seas.
Before the Long Island-based boat went down, part of its cargo was transferred to the Ingham, the Coast Guard cutter that had intercepted it Friday about 200 miles off New Jersey, Murphy said.
He said the boat was headed for New York from an unknown point when the Coast Guard, acting on a tip, boarded and took it under tow.
The three Washington-area men taken into custody were identified as David Bontecou, 33, and his brother, Kenneth, 35, both of 7614 Shreve Rd., Falls Church, and Joseph Salomone, 28, of Annapolis. Murphy said that David Bontecou was listed as a fish wholesaler, his brother as adiesel mechanic, and Salomone as a construction engineer.
Two other men aboard the craft, one from Miami, and one fromBogota, Colombia, also were seized.