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Man pleads guilty to role in constructing drug tunnel

September 17, 2012 |  8:42 pm

A Calexico man pleaded guilty Monday to a money-laundering conspiracy charge in connection with the construction of a drug tunnel designed to link downtown Calexico with the Baja California city of Mexicali, federal authorities in San Diego said.

Ricardo Rosales-Rafael, 45, admitted he used $340,172 in drug proceeds from Mexico to rent a warehouse, where in August 2011 U.S. authorities discovered an incomplete tunnel and an assortment of digging tools.

The tunnel was intended to link a vacant store in a Calexico strip mall to a residence in Mexicali, authorities said.

Mexican organized crime groups have constructed several tunnels in the area over the years, taking advantage of the relatively short distance between buildings on both sides of the border.

The source of the money is unclear. Rosales-Rafael was allegedly acting on orders of his son-in- law, not identified by authorities.

“Rosales-Rafael knew that he was conducting financial transactions designed to conceal and disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership and the controls of the drug proceeds,” said a statement released by federal prosecutors in San Diego.

Rosales-Rafael faces a potential maximum sentence of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced in December.


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-- Richard Marosi in San Diego