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'Pipeline' drug tunnel discovered in Calexico, across from Mexicali

August 26, 2011 |  9:08 pm

Federal law enforcement agents have discovered the beginnings of a cross-border tunnel in the Imperial Valley border community of Calexico that represents the latest tactic of drug smugglers, officials announced Friday.

While cross-border tunnels are not unusual -- two were found earlier this month in Calexico -- the tunnel that had its origin at a closed Vons grocery store was unusual for two reasons, officials said.

First, it was apparently meant to be a "pipeline tunnel" where drugs could be conveyed from Mexico to the U.S. through a PVC pipe that is 4 inches in diameter. Most tunnels are much larger so bales of marijuana can be smuggled in.

Second, digging began in the U.S., not Mexico. The tunnel had advanced southward about 100 yards but had not yet crossed into Mexicali, officials said.

Tunneling equipment was found, but no arrests were made. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents began investigating after neighbors complained of a possible gas leak.

In March, state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris was shown a drug tunnel in Calexico and immediately vowed to add investigators to keep the Calexico area from being a corridor for massive amounts of drugs to enter the U.S.

"What happens here has impact and effect throughout the state of California," she said.


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Photo: Tunneling equipment found at the former grocery store in Calexico. Credit: Immigration and Customs Enforcement