Authorities find smuggling tunnel under US-Mexico border, seize $29M worth of drugs

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BY REBECCA KLAR

Federal agents in San Diego uncovered an underground smuggling tunnel last week and seized more than $29 million worth of drugs, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said Tuesday.

The tunnel extended more than 2,000 feet between a warehouse in the Otay Mesa area of San Diego and a warehouse in Tijuana, Mexico, according to the DEA.

Agents seized about 1,300 pounds of cocaine, 86 pounds of methamphetamine, 17 pounds of heroin, 3,000 pounds of marijuana and more than two pounds of fentanyl from the tunnel, according to the DEA. Authorities estimated the total street value of the seized drugs is $29.6 million.

The discovery of the tunnel resulted from a combined investigation from members of the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, as well as Homeland Security, U.S. Border Patrol, the DEA and the United States Attorney’s Office.

Agents estimate the tunnel has been in existence for several months based on advanced construction in several portions, including reinforced walls, ventilation, lighting and an underground rail system.

The tunnel has an average depth of 31 feet and width of 3 feet throughout most of the passageway.

“I hope this sends a clear message that despite the ongoing public health crisis, [Homeland Security Investigations] and our law enforcement partners will remain resilient and continue to pursue criminal organizations responsible for the cross-border smuggling of narcotics into the United States,” HSI San Diego acting special agent in charge Cardell T. Morant said in a statement.

DEA special agent in charge John W. Callery similarly praised the discovery and the dedication of agents despite the coronavirus pandemic, and noted the San Diego Tunnel Task Force several months ago uncovered the “longest cross-border tunnel” yet found.

Agents announced in January they discovered a 4,309-foot tunnel between Tijuana and San Diego.

“These tunnels show the determination of drug trafficking organizations to subvert our border controls and smuggle deadly drugs into our community. But these recent tunnel seizures also show the dedication of our amazing partners on the San Diego Tunnel Task Force to locate and shut down these tunnels to keep our communities safe,” Callery said in a statement. “Despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, DEA employees continue to work tirelessly to serve and protect the community.”

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