The secret passage from Tijuana to San Diego had rail and ventilation systems, electricity and reinforced walls, authorities said. It was discovered near the San Diego Otay Mesa border crossing, in an area where more than a dozen other sophisticated tunnels have been found over the past two decades.
U.S. authorities said it was unknown how long the tunnel had been operating and how much of the drugs, if any, had gone unnoticed. 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, aged 31 to 55, were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. They are all residents of Southern California.
The tunnel is located in one of the strongest parts of the border, depicting the restrictions of the border wall of former President Donald Trump. Although considered effective against small, coarse tunnels called “hip holes”, the walls do not match more sophisticated passages that run deeper underground.
The last crossing, discovered on Friday, ran a third of a mile (532 meters) to Tijuana. It had a diameter of 4 feet (1.2 m) and a depth of about six floors.
The type of drugs seized could signal a shift from the multi-tonne marijuana shipments often found in discoveries before California legalized the container for recreational use in 2019.
Hard drugs, such as heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl, are usually smuggled through the official border crossings of Mexico because their small size and lack of odor make them difficult to detect. But tunnels give smugglers the advantage that they can carry huge loads at lightning speed.
The tunnel was coming out of the United States in an unlimited 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 well with a ladder descending into the tunnel.
After setting up a house recently used to hide drugs, officials began blocking vehicles parked there or in a warehouse near the border, turning boxes full of cocaine, according to a federal criminal complaint filed in San Diego.
They raided the property – they found no other drugs in the warehouse, but a tunnel opening carved into the concrete floor, federal prosecutors said.
Authorities have found about 15 advanced tunnels on the California-Mexico border since 2006.
Many tunnels, including the one announced Monday, are located in San Diego’s Otay Mesa industrial area, where clay-like soil favors digging and warehouses provide coverage.
The crossings date back to the early 1990s and have been used mainly for the smuggling of multi-tonne marijuana. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in 2020 that they are generally located in California and Arizona and are linked to the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico.
Authorities have refused to link the last tunnel to a specific cartel. They claimed the victory even though they did not know how long it had been operating.
“There is no light at the end of this drug tunnel,” said Randy Grossman, a U.S. attorney for Southern California. “We will eliminate any underground smuggling routes we find to prevent illicit 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 after they are discovered.
Associated Press writer Eugene Johnson in Seattle contributed.
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San Diego drug tunnel found in Otay Mesa warehouse linking to Tijuana home, more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine seized Source link San Diego drug tunnel found in Otay Mesa warehouse linking to Tijuana home, more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine seized