Photo: San Diego Narco Tunnel has Elevator
Agencies with the San Diego Tunnel Task Force Wednesday announced the arrest of six suspects and the seizure of more than 32 tons of marijuana following the discovery of the most elaborate smuggling tunnel uncovered along the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.
Investigators say the passageway, found Tuesday as a result of a six-month investigation by the multi-agency Task Force, connects a warehouse in San Diego’s Otay Mesa industrial park with one in neighboring Tijuana, Mexico. The 612-yard long passageway is equipped with electric rail cars, lighting, reinforced walls and wooden floors.
On the Mexican side, the tunnel’s entrance is accessed through a hydraulically-controlled steel door and an elevator concealed beneath the warehouse floor. At the bottom of the tunnel shaft is a large storage room where agents recovered approximately three tons of marijuana. Another ton of marijuana was piled in bundles near the tunnel’s entrance. Meanwhile, investigators searched the Otay Mesa building that housed the tunnel’s U.S. entry point, where they found another 20 tons of marijuana wrapped in plastic and stacked neatly on pallets.
The enforcement actions leading to the tunnel’s discovery began unfolding Monday evening when investigators observed a tractor trailer truck leaving the Otay Mesa warehouse. After parking overnight in the Miramar area, a man picked up the rig early Tuesday and headed toward Los Angeles. Canines at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection-Border Patrol checkpoint in San Clemente alerted on the tractor trailer for the presence of drugs. Agents, aware of the ongoing investigation, waived the truck through the checkpoint and the driver proceeded to the City of Industry, Calif. There, he pulled into the parking lot of a warehouse located at 14837 Proctor Ave. and, together with three other individuals, began unloading the trailer’s contents.
At that point, agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) moved in, taking custody of four suspects and seizing close to 11 tons of marijuana packed inside the truck’s trailer. All told, Tuesday’s enforcement actions resulted in the interdiction of more than 32 tons of marijuana with an estimated street value of nearly $65 million.