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Drug tunnel uncovered at San Diego-Tijuana border, officials say; nearly 20 tons of marijuana seized

November 26, 2010 |  2:17 pm

2nd drug tunnel discovered this month

Federal authorities uncovered a sophisticated, nearly half-mile-long drug tunnel connecting San Diego and Tijuana, officials said Friday, leading to the seizure of nearly 20 tons of marijuana and eight arrests.

The tunnel, which was discovered Thursday, is the second of its kind found in the Otay Mesa area of San Diego in recent weeks. Unlike previous tunnels found in the area, this one had two entrances on the San Diego side, located about 800 feet apart in an industrial complex. The other end of the tunnel emerged inside a Tijuana residence connected to a garage large enough to receive deliveries from tractor-trailer trucks, authorities said.

The tunnel, built about 90 feet below the surface, included wood and cinder-block supports, as well as rail, electrical and ventilation systems, authorities said.

"This discovery again shows the cartels' growing desperation in the face of beefed-up border security, and the costly extremes these organizations are trying in an effort to avoid detection," Miguel Unzueta, special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement homeland security investigations in San Diego, said in a statement.

The tunnel was located after authorities from the multi-agency San Diego Tunnel Task Force observed a suspicious tractor-trailer parked at a warehouse in the 10000 block of Marconi Drive, where one of the tunnel's entrances was discovered, officials said.

Agents followed the truck and alerted U.S. Border Patrol agents at a Temecula traffic checkpoint. Agents there stopped and inspected the truck and found more than 27,000 pounds of marijuana. The driver was arrested and will be prosecuted on federal drug-smuggling charges, authorities said.

Working in connection with task force agents, the Mexican military raided a ranch in northern Mexico and found about 4,000 pounds of marijuana. After entering the tunnel, soldiers found an additional 6,000 pounds of marijuana and later arrested five people in connection with the raids, officials said.

Task force agents also arrested two men in El Cajon who were seen at the Otay Mesa warehouse Thursday morning, officials said.

Authorities uncovered a similar tunnel on Nov. 4. Agents followed a tractor-trailer that was acting suspiciously and found about 10 tons of marijuana inside at the same checkpoint in Temecula, officials said.

Federal agents said they later raided the warehouse from which the truck had departed and found an additional 10 to 15 tons of pot and a 3-foot-by-4-foot tunnel that emerged about 1,800 feet away in a warehouse south of the border.

Mexican soldiers found an additional 4 tons of marijuana inside that warehouse, officials said.


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Photo credit: Fox 5 San Diego