A Mexico-California tunnel, which was discovered by U.S. authorities on Wednesday, is being called “the longest cross-border tunnel ever discovered.” Officials confirmed the drug-trafficking tunnel is nearly one-half mile long, stretching from a Tijuana home to an industrial lot in San Diego.
In addition to their discovery of the Mexico-California tunnel, federal agents recovered seven tons of marijuana and over two tons of cocaine with a street value of over $22 million. A representative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office believes it is the “longest cross-border tunnel ever discovered.”
According to Washington Post, federal agents followed the alleged drug traffickers, who were driving a commercial truck, to the industrial lot — where they discovered the entryway leading to the tunnel.
The tunnel stretched more than 874 yards before entering U.S. territory in a fenced commercial lot in San Diego. The exit was strategically covered with an enormous trash bin.
— ABC News (@ABC) April 21, 2016
As reported by Daily Mail, officials said the tunnel is outfitted with lights, ventilation systems, and a large elevator. U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy confirmed the Mexico-California tunnel was disturbingly elaborate and well hidden.
“On the surface, few would ever suspect that traffickers were moving multi-ton quantities of cocaine and marijuana worth tens of millions of dollars in such an unassuming way, through this rabbit hole in the ground, in full view of the world around it.”
According to Duffy, the tunnel was unique because it was used to transport cocaine as well as marijuana. She added that the smugglers took great pains to mask the odor of marijuana, which usually makes it fairly easy for border inspectors to track the illicit drug.
Margarita Ontiveros, who works for a law firm next to the San Diego lot, said the tenants started selling wooden pallets at the site last year. “They loaded and unloaded a lot of pallets… they sold very cheap,” she said.
Another man, who also works next to the industrial site, said he became suspicious when the owners installed an unusual number of cameras. “Once I saw them put up cameras inside I knew something was going on,” he said.
Investigators put the industrial lot under surveillance after Border Patrol agents noticed unusually heavy traffic in the area.
On April 13, authorities focused their attention on a trash bin, which was fork-lifted onto a truck in the lot. The truck was subsequently followed to a parking lot in San Diego.
— News Source 24 (@NewsSource24) April 21, 2016
Two days later, another truck was stopped by authorities on its way out of the San Diego parking lot. Officials later confirmed it was carrying 11,030 pounds of marijuana and 2,240 pounds of cocaine. The officers then returned to the original lot, where they found several tons of illegal drugs.
A total of six people were arrested for building the Mexico-California tunnel and numerous drug-related crimes. The suspects were identified as one U.S. citizen, three Mexican citizens who entered the country legally, and two Cubans who entered the United States under asylum.
Hunter Davis, director of air operations for Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations said the California-Mexico tunnel is a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities along the Southwest border of the United States.
The Mexico-California tunnel is the 13th such discovery along the border since 2006, including three tunnels found on one street in San Diego.
The San Diego-Tijuana border is specifically attractive for drug traffickers because the soil is easy to dig, and both sides of the border have warehouses, which provide cover for the movement of trucks and other heavy-duty equipment.
The recently discovered Mexico-California tunnel demonstrates the resilience of drug smugglers, who are desperate to transport illegal drugs into the U.S. by any means despite the efforts of the authorities to keep them out.
Dozens of tunnels have been found along the United States-Mexico border, especially in Arizona and California. However, due to the time and money required to build and maintain a functional tunnel, many have been abandoned.
It is unclear how long the recently discovered Mexico-California tunnel was in operation. However, authorities believe traffickers used the tunnel to transport hundreds of millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs across the border.
[Image via MilanTomazin/Shutterstock]