'Sophisticated' drug tunnel found in Mexico

2013-11-01 11:05
 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows agents in a tunnel designed to smuggle drugs from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego. (Paul Caffrey, AP)

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows agents in a tunnel designed to smuggle drugs from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego. (Paul Caffrey, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

San Diego - A tunnel designed to smuggle drugs from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego was equipped with lighting, ventilation and an electric rail system, US authorities said on Thursday, making it one of the most sophisticated secret passages discovered along the US-Mexico border.

Authorities seized eight and a half tons of marijuana and 148kg of cocaine in connection with the tunnel's discovery, according to court records. Three men who authorities say worked as drivers were charged on Thursday with possession of marijuana and cocaine with intent to distribute. US Attorney Laura Duffy said they face prison sentences between 10 years and life if convicted.

The tunnel, which zigzags the length of nearly six football fields, links warehouses in Tijuana and San Diego's Otay Mesa industrial area. The area is filled with nondescript warehouses, making it easier to conceal trucks being loaded with drugs.

The tunnel was shut down on Wednesday night, before any drugs made it through undetected, authorities said. Federal agents had the San Diego warehouse under surveillance after being tipped off by an informant who told them that operators bought drills and other construction equipment in August and September.

As US border security has heightened on land, Mexican drug cartels have turned to ultra light aircraft, small fishing boats and tunnels. More than 75 underground passages have been discovered along the border since 2008, designed largely to smuggle marijuana.

The tunnels are concentrated along the border in California and Arizona. San Diego is popular because its clay-like soil is easy to dig. In Nogales, Arizona, smugglers tap into vast underground drainage canals.

The tunnel is the eighth major passage discovered in San Diego since 2006, a period during which Mexico's Sinaloa cartel has solidified its hold on the prized smuggling corridor. Authorities said Wednesday's tunnel was the first in the San Diego area that was found to be used for cocaine.

The passage was about 35 feet underground, 4 feet high and 3 feet wide, said Derek Benner, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's head of Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego. Authorities said the zigzag route suggests that excavators veered off course several times.

Largest tunnel

Some of the largest tunnels have been discovered after central Mexico's marijuana harvest in October, which presents drug cartels with a challenge of how to quickly get their product to consumers.

In November 2011, authorities found a 600-yard tunnel that resulted in seizures of 32 tons of marijuana on both sides of the border, with 26 tons found on the US side, accounting for one of the largest pot busts in US history. The tunnel was equipped with electric rail cars, lighting and ventilation. Wooden planks lined the floor.

On Thanksgiving Day 2010, authorities found a roughly 700-yard passage equipped with rail tracks that extended from the kitchen of a Tijuana home to two San Diego warehouses, netting about 22 tons of marijuana on both sides of the border.

Seizures linked to the tunnel include a haul of 3 tons of marijuana in a truck that was stopped by Chula Vista police on Saturday for a traffic violation and five and half tons of marijuana inside the tunnel, a nearby warehouse and a truck on Wednesday, according to prosecutors. The cocaine was found in six suitcases inside a van seen leaving the warehouse on Wednesday.

Read more on:    us  |  mexico  |  narcotics

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.