SAN DIEGO ( Associated Press) – US officials on Monday announced the discovery of a major drug smuggling tunnel – running about the length of six football fields – from Mexico to a warehouse in an industrial area in the US
Officials said the secret passage from Tijuana to San Diego has rail and ventilation systems, electricity and reinforced walls. It was discovered near San Diego’s Ote Mesa border crossing in an area where more than a dozen other sophisticated tunnels have been found over the past two decades.
US officials said it was unknown how long the tunnel had been running and the amount of drugs, if any, not known. They seized 1,762 pounds (799 kilograms) of cocaine, 165 pounds (75 kilograms) of meth and 3.5 pounds (1.6 kilograms) of heroin in connection with the investigation.
Six men, aged 31 to 55, were charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine. All are residents of Southern California.
The tunnel is one of the most fortified parts of the border, marking the boundaries of the boundary walls. While considered effective against small, severely constructed tunnels called “gopher holes,” the walls are no match for the more sophisticated passageways that run deep underground.
The latest route, discovered on Friday, ran a third of a mile (532 meters) as far as Tijuana. It was 4 feet (1.2 m) in diameter and about six storeys deep.
The types of drugs confiscated may indicate a shift from the multi-tonneloads of marijuana that were often found in searches before California legalized pot for recreational use in 2019.
Hard drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl are commonly smuggled across the official border from Mexico because their small size and lack of odor make them difficult to detect. But tunnels give smugglers an advantage of being able to lift heavy loads at lightning speed.
The tunnel originated from the United States in a non-description warehouse called “Amistad Park” on a road that is busy with large semi-trailers during the day but quiet at night. On Monday, armed guards spotted a small shaft with a ladder leading down into the tunnel.
According to a federal criminal complaint filed in San Diego, after recently ousting a home used to store drugs, officers turned cocaine-filled boxes into vehicular traffic stops at a warehouse there or near the border. started making.
Federal prosecutors said they raided the properties — no other drugs were found in the warehouse, but a tunnel was dug into the cement floor.
Officials have discovered about 15 sophisticated tunnels along California’s border with Mexico since 2006.
Several tunnels, including one announced Monday, are in San Diego’s Ote Mesa industrial area, where clay-like soil is conducive to digging and warehouses provide cover.
Cross-border routes date back to the early 1990s and have been primarily used for smuggling multi-tonne loads of marijuana. The US Drug Enforcement Administration said in 2020 that they are commonly found in California and Arizona and linked to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel.
Officials declined to link the latest tunnel to any specific cartel. He claimed victory despite knowing how long it had been going on.
“There’s no more light at the end of this narco-tunnel,” said US attorney Randy Grossman for the Southern District of California. “We will remove every underground smuggling route we find to allow illegal drugs to reach our streets and destroy our families and communities.”
According to federal law, American officials must fill the American side of the tunnels with concrete after they are discovered.
Associated Press writer Eugene Johnson in Seattle contributed.