Mexican drug traffickers bought a piece of land in Calexico, California, and dug a tunnel the length of four football fields to smuggle drugs, and perhaps even people, into the United States. This is officially the first time that Mexican smugglers have purchased land and then built a house to hide tunnel entrances.
When federal authorities raided the Calexico tunnels, they uncovered more than one ton of marijuana and arrested four Mexican drug traffickers, the Miami Herald reports. The drugs found in the smugglers’ tunnels had a street value of over $6 million, CNN notes.
Federal agents arrested Joel Duarte Medina and Manuel Gallegos Jiminez in Calexico and arrested Marcia Manuela Duarte-Medina and her mother, Eva Duarte De Medina, in Arizona on Tuesday. All of the smuggling suspects are facing multiple money laundering and drug trafficking charges related to the tunnels.
The Mexican border has been a major issue during the 2016 presidential election campaign. Both Republican top candidates, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, have repeatedly stated they intend to build a wall along the porous border and ramp up efforts to prevent illegal immigrants and drugs from coming into the United States.
Authorities have found a secret border tunnel leading from a newly-built house in Calexico, CA to Mexicali, Mexico. pic.twitter.com/pn2yaj02G1
— AJ+ (@ajplus) March 24, 2016
The Calexico tunnel was just the latest tunnel discovered along the California state and Mexican border since 2006. Federal agents have found 12 tunnels in that region in the past decade alone. During the last five years, 75 Mexican smuggling tunnels have been found along the United States border with Mexico. Most of the tunnels were found in California and Arizona, and not all of them had been completed when they were discovered.
“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,” said Southern California U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “This house and tunnel were constructed under the watchful eye of law enforcement.”
Feds bust drug smuggling ring using tunnel under U.S.-Mexico border https://t.co/1TA0m3bmMs
— HuffPost Crime (@HuffPostCrime) March 25, 2016
The Mexican smuggling suspects allegedly bought the Calexico land for $240,000. The new owners then reportedly did the finishing word on the three-bedroom home for about $86,000 in December. Federal prosecutors believe the first drug trafficking began in the tunnel at the end of February. A shipment of 1,350 pounds of marijuana was seized in West Covina, a Los Angeles suburb. The home was both the newest and nicest residence on the block.
The Calexico tunnel ran from the purchased property to about 300 yards inside the Mexican border to the El Sarape restaurant. About 100 yards of the tunnel was open on the American side of the border. The city of Calexico is located about 120 miles east of San Diego and is home to about 40,000 people.
The smuggling tunnel reportedly ran under both First and Second Street in Calexico and then under the 14-foot tall metal border security fence.
Calexico was reportedly an odd choice for smugglers to go underground to move drugs and illegal immigrants. According to the CNN report, the dense soil in the area is “difficult to break,” and the “residential character” of the town was thought to make the covert digging tunnels by Hispanic landowners an equally difficult task to accomplish.
What do you think about the discovery of the Calexico tunnel and allegations that Mexican smugglers bought property in the United States to hide their illegal activities?
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