November 3, 2010 (San Diego) – The San Diego Tunnel Task Force uncovered a sophisticated 600-yard underground cross-border tunnel overnight, the U.S. Justice Department Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reveals. Approximately 30 tons of marijuana seized in the US and Mexico have been linked to the tunnel.
The crawlspace-sized passageway connected an Otay Mesa warehouse in the 9000 block of Via de la Amistad with a similar building in Tijuana, Mexico. The tunnel is equipped with rail, lighting and ventilation systems. Based upon preliminary indications, authorities believe the passageway was probably completed very recently.
“I applaud the efforts of this skilled multi-agency task force of tenacious agents from DEA, ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], Border Patrol and California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement who uncovered this elaborate smuggling scheme leading to the massive marijuana haul and tunnel discovery,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Not only will this seizure significantly disrupt the responsible cartel by stripping from it millions in potential drug profits, but it will also keep this dangerous and addictive drug off our streets and out of our neighborhoods. DEA, along with our law enforcement partners and Mexican counterparts, will remain relentless in our efforts to weaken and crush the Mexican cartels, both north and south of our US/Mexico border.”
While conducting surveillance in the Otay Mesa area yesterday, Task Force agents observed suspicious activity involving a tractor trailer truck parked at the warehouse where the tunnel entrance was later discovered. After the truck left the location, agents kept it under surveillance, alerting the Border Patrol as it approached the traffic checkpoint in Temecula. At the traffic checkpoint, Border Patrol agents stopped the vehicle and a subsequent search of the truck’s trailer revealed 10 tons of marijuana packed in large cargo boxes. The vehicle’s driver and passenger were taken into custody and will be prosecuted on federal drug smuggling charges.
Following the seizure, Tunnel Task Force agents obtained a federal search warrant for the Otay Mesa warehouse. When they entered the building Tuesday night they discovered a second cache of marijuana, weighing an estimated 15 tons, and the entrance to the cross-border tunnel. Task Force agents quickly alerted Mexican military personnel who quickly located the tunnel’s other entrance at a warehouse in Tijuana. Inside that building, Mexican authorities recovered another four tons of marijuana, bringing the estimated street value of the marijuana seized in the case so far at approximately $20 million.
The discovery of the tunnel is the result of a continuing investigation by the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, which is made up of representatives from Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol and California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.