The suspicious packages that washed ashore on Chilmark’s Lucy Vincent Beach this summer have been identified as more than 50 pounds of uncut cocaine.
Regional U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials seized 24 rectangular packages of what had been deemed an unknown substance back in July, when a Chilmark beachgoer reported a large cache of packages to local police.
Until now, no new information was available.
In a sit-down with The Times this week, David DiTullio, resident agent in charge at Cape Cod’s DEA location, was able to confirm that after being sent to the agency’s New York laboratory, the 24 1-kilo bricks tested positive for pure cocaine — uncontaminated by any cutting agent.
Having such a large quantity of illicit substances wash up on the region’s coast is “definitely rare,” he said. But having it wash up on the shores of Martha’s Vineyard, DiTullio said, is particularly anomalous.
“This is certainly the most amount of cocaine that the Vineyard has ever seen,” he said, adding that in his roughly 20 years working with the DEA throughout New England, he’s never seen anything like it.
Twenty-four kilograms of cocaine is not only “a significant amount for this area,” DiTullio said, but is also considered a “significant seizure” by federal standards.
While typically the price of cocaine varies anywhere from $36,000 to $55,000 per kilo, DiTullio says, that number could reach up to $75,000 on Martha’s Vineyard.
Valued at around $1.8 million, local officials say the drugs confiscated at Lucy Vincent mark the largest cocaine seizure in Vineyard history.
Generally, large loads of illegal substances detected by drug enforcement are found in “source cities,” or areas with larger populations involved in the drug trade, where cartel “splinter cells” are known to be based.
DiTullio says though the bricks — stamped with artwork of a toucan — “definitely came from a cartel,” as they were consistent with packaging by members of drug cartels from Central and South America, the imprint has not yet been attributed to any specific criminal organization.
While it is still unclear from where exactly the bounty originated, officials say they’ve been able to determine from tide and wind charts that the package had “not been out to sea for a particularly long time,” and likely entered the water between Rhode Island and Martha’s Vineyard before washing up on Lucy Vincent Beach.
The nearly $2 million worth of illegal drugs washed ashore wrapped in a burlap sack, and was encased in a large trash bag before it was inventoried and analyzed by drug officials.
The investigation into the origin and intended destination of the packages is ongoing, and the federal agency implores members of the public that may know about the packages to contact their regional office.
The Cape Cod drug enforcement office works with local police and the U.S. Coast Guard in investigating Island drug crimes, in addition to helping with drug takebacks and diversionary programs.
In this area specifically, officials say, the biggest threat is the use of fentanyl as a cutting agent in various drugs like heroin, cocaine, and even marijuana. But most prevalent are “fake pills” laced with fentanyl.
The uptick of these poses “a huge problem” in New England, as drug users are often not aware of what they are taking, making them dangerously more susceptible to fatal overdose.
“You just don’t know what you’re taking,” Agent DiTullio added. “It’s pretty scary nowadays that anything could have fentanyl in it.”