Drug Traffickers Buy U.S. Land, Build Tunnel To Mexico

Drug Smuggling

Several drug traffickers bought U.S. land so they could build a tunnel between the United States and Mexico. A total of four people were arrested in connection with the 415-yard tunnel, which was concealed under a residential home in Calexico, California. Authorities said the tunnel crossed the border and ended inside a restaurant in Mexicali, Mexico.

Authorities believe the drug traffickers bought the U.S. land for the sole purpose of smuggling drugs, as it is located approximately 300 yards north of the international line.

As reported by CNN, the beige stucco house is part of a community of single-family homes and is the newest on the block. Traffickers scouting for properties in the residential area of Calexico had paid for the parcel of land for $240,000 in April, 2015. The drug traffickers who bought the U.S. land built the house between October and December at a cost of $86,000.

According to reports, the owners told the contractor to leave room for a floor safe when the cement foundation was being poured.

Although the house looks innocuous, there is a gaping three-foot diameter hole in the front room. Inside the hole is a shaft, which plunges 32 feet into a tunnel featuring a rail system, electricity, and lighting. The tunnel stretches underneath the first street, second street and then underneath the 14-foot border fence.

Latin Post reports the case is unusual because Calexico’s soil is notoriously dense and dry. A majority of known drug tunnels have been discovered close to the Otay Mesa border, 125 miles west of Calexico. In addition to the ground being softer for digging, thousands of vacant warehouses, which are located on each side of the border, serve as cover for smugglers as they move their illicit products.

Juan Urrea, who lives a block away from Calexico, was stunned to learn his neighbors are drug traffickers who bought the U.S. land to facilitate the building of a tunnel.

“This is a peaceful neighborhood. You just don’t hear about stuff like this here…it’s crazy, just crazy.”

Another neighbor, Yolanda Sanchez, said she thought the house would help improve the value of other properties in the area.

“We were happy because they built this new house. I would see a guy and a lady go in, once in awhile but only for a few minutes. And then this morning, we wake up with a huge, big bang. Helicopter! Police! I go out of my house and I find a tunnel.”

Marcia Manuela Duarte-Medina and her mother Eva Duarte De Medina were arrested by authorities in Arizona Tuesday. Manuel Gallegos Jiminez and Joel Duarte Medina were arrested in Calexico Wednesday. They were all charged with numerous offenses related to drug trafficking as well as money laundering and tunnel digging.

In an official statement, U.S. Laura Duffy of Southern California explained the arrests.

“For the builders, the financiers and the operators of these sophisticated tunnels, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. We will seize your drugs and your tunnel before you even have a chance to use it.”

Drug traffickers buying U.S. land might be a new thing. However, underground tunnels started emerging in 2012 — proving drug cartels are willing to build sophisticated alternatives to evade heightened surveillance on land.

Douglas Coleman, Special Agent with the Enforcement Administration commented on the trend.

“When you see what is here and the way they designed it, it isn’t’ something that your average miner can put together. You need someone with some engineering expertise to put something like this together.”

If convicted, the drug traffickers who bought U.S. land to build a tunnel could be sentenced to several decades in prison.

[Image via Vladislav S/Shutterstock]