Two foreign drug smugglers -- one from Ukraine and one from Russia -- have been sentenced to 25 years in prison for trying to smuggle millions of dollars worth of cocaine into the U.S. on a so-called “ghost ship.” Prosecutors say Igor Polshyn, of Yalta, Ukraine and Oleskii Tsurkan, of Moscow, were each sentenced by a federal judge in Tampa, Florida on Friday after being convicted last fall of drug smuggling charges. Federal officials say the two men were on a sailboat about 56 miles south of the Dominican Republic on the night of November 7, 2015, sailing with no lights, when they were spotted by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection plane.

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Coast Cutter called to intercept, board sailboat

The plane notified the Coast Guard, which sent the cutter Bernard C. Webber to intercept the boat. When the cutter caught up with the sailboat and a Coast Guard crew boarded the boat, the crew found more than 800 pounds of cocaine -- estimated to be worth about $10 million -- on board. A subsequent investigation found the boat was using the stolen identity of a boat in Spain as part of an attempt to hide its true identity.

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Scores of drug smugglers have been arrested

The patrol plane and the Coast Guard involved in tracking and seizing the drugs are part of long-running federal drug task force which has made scores of arrests and seized hundreds of tons of drugs in Caribbean waters. Earlier this month the Border Patrol, the U.S. Navy and the Coast Guard teamed up to intercept and stop a “go-fast” boat -- also called a cigarette boat -- off the coast of the Dominican Republic that was packed with about $30 million worth of cocaine. The four men on board the boat were arrested on drug charges.

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Cutters returned to ports with $800 million worth of cocaine in December

And last month the Coast Guard reported that several of its cutters had returned to the U.S. with 27 tons of cocaine -- or nearly $800 million worth of the drug -- seized during patrols of the Caribbean and off the coast of South America.

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