SAN DIEGO – US authorities on Monday announced the opening of a large drug smuggling tunnel – about six football fields long – from Mexico to a warehouse in an industrial zone in the United States
The secret passage from Tijuana to San Diego included rail and ventilation systems, electricity and reinforced walls, authorities said. It was found near the Otai Mesa border crossing in San Diego, an area where more than a dozen other complex tunnels have been discovered in the past two decades.
U.S. officials say it is not known how long the tunnel has been operating and how many drugs, if any, have gone undetected. They seized 1,762 pounds (799 kg) of cocaine, 165 pounds (75 kg) of methamphetamine and 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg) of heroin in connection with the investigation.
Six people between the ages of 31 and 55 have been charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. All are residents of Southern California.
The tunnel is in one of the most fortified sections of the border, illustrating the limitations of the border walls. Although considered effective against small, roughly built tunnels called “gopher holes”, the walls are not suitable for more complex passages that go deeper underground.
The last passage, opened on Friday, was a third of a mile (532 meters) to Tijuana. It was 4 feet (1.2 m) in diameter and about six stories deep.
The type of drug seized may signal a shift from the multi-ton marijuana cargo that is often found in discoveries before California legalizes the entertainment pot in 2019.
Solid drugs, such as heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl, are usually smuggled through official Mexican border crossings, as their small size and lack of odor make them difficult to detect. But tunnels give smugglers the advantage of being able to carry huge loads at lightning speed.
The tunnel left the United States in an unsightly warehouse called Amistad Park on a street that is busy with large semi-trailers during the day but quiet at night. On Monday, armed guards watched a small shaft with a ladder descend into the tunnel.
After setting up a home that was recently used to collect drugs, officers began to stop trafficking vehicles that were there or in a warehouse near the border, finding boxes full of cocaine, according to a federal criminal complaint filed in San Diego.
They raided the property, finding no other drugs in the warehouse, but a tunnel carved into the cement floor, federal prosecutors said.
Authorities have discovered about 15 complex tunnels on California’s border with Mexico since 2006.
Many tunnels, including the one announced Monday, are located in the Otai Mesa industrial zone in San Diego, where clay soil is conducive to digging and warehouses provide coverage.
Cross-border crossings date back to the early 1990s and have been used mainly to smuggle tons of marijuana. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in 2020 that they are typically located in California and Arizona and are linked to the Mexican Sinaloa cartel.
Authorities refused to link the latest tunnel to a specific cartel. They declared victory, although they did not know how long he had been working.
“There’s no more light at the end of this drug tunnel,” said Randy Grossman, a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California. “We will eliminate any underground smuggling routes we find to prevent illegal drugs from reaching our streets and destroying our families and communities.
Under federal law, U.S. authorities must fill the U.S. side of the tunnels with concrete once they are discovered.
Seattle-based Associate Press writer Eugene Johnson contributed.
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A large cross-border tunnel connecting Tijuana, San Diego, has been discovered
Source link A large cross-border tunnel connecting Tijuana, San Diego, has been discovered