‘Massive tunnel’ found from Mexico to US containing $25 million worth of drugs, 6 arrested

Federal police officers have uncovered an elaborate tunnel they say was used to smuggle nearly a ton of cocaine from Mexico to a southern California warehouse.

The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California on Monday announced the discovery of the subterranean passage and the indictment of six people allegedly involved in a drug trafficking ring. Prosecutors say this isn’t the first illegal tunnel they’ve spotted, as law enforcement has been on the lookout for attempts by drug smugglers to circumvent customs by digging underground.

Federal prosecutors say the tunnel is about 1,744 feet long and connects Tijuana, Mexico, with a warehouse in San Diego, east of the port of entry. At 61 feet deep and 4 feet in diameter, the tunnel has reinforced walls, a rail system, electricity and even a ventilation system, according to prosecutors.

“The San Diego law enforcement community has multiple investigative task forces that prioritize tunnel detection,” Chad Plantz, the special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations San Diego, said in a statement.

Drug tunnels in California
Federal authorities in California announced the discovery of an advanced tunnel used for drug trafficking under the US-Mexico border. Above, an investigator combs through a similarly advanced drug tunnel found on November 30, 2011 at a warehouse in Otay Mesa, California.
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Department of Homeland Security investigators discovered the tunnel just after midnight while monitoring an apartment building in National City — a small port town between San Diego and Tijuana — that had previously been used as a “hideout house,” according to the US law firm.

Earlier that day, investigators saw Luz de Luna Olmos and Vanessa Ramirez exit the home in a silver Nissan Frontier pickup, according to prosecutors. Investigators looked on as they picked up large boxes as well as wheeled carts normally used to transport heavy items, prosecutors said.

According to prosecutors, around 2:30 p.m. local time, Ramirez drove the pickup truck from the house to a warehouse located about 300 feet north of the US-Mexico border fence. There, according to the prosecutor, Ramirez drove the pickup into the bay of the camp, with the roller door immediately being closed behind her.

Ramirez returned home in the pickup truck about two hours later as law enforcement continued to pursue her, prosecutors said. Later that afternoon and evening, law enforcement saw five other cars coming and going from either the home, the warehouse, or both, according to prosecutors.

“Within a few hours, agents were watching five vehicles coming and going from the hideout and this warehouse. We allege that the defendants drove into the garage and loaded or dumped boxes of drugs to facilitate the movement or distribution of drugs in the United States, the federal agents were watching the entire time,” US Attorney Randy Grossman told the ABC daughter KGTV.

Police officers stopped the vehicles, confiscated drugs and arrested the drivers, prosecutors said. Inside the warehouse, law enforcement found what they called “an elaborate cross-border tunnel exit point carved out of the cement floor.”

Authorities seized 1,762 pounds of cocaine, 164 pounds of methamphetamine and 3.5 pounds of heroin.

Grossman told KGTV that “good old-fashioned police work” led to the discovery of the tunnel. The surveillance that led to the arrests was part of an ongoing joint task force made up of federal and local agents.

Since 1993, 90 underground passageways have been found in the Southern District of California, 27 of which are considered “sophisticated,” according to the US Attorney’s Office. The last one was found in March 2020.

Earlier in 2019, federal agents found a large tunnel near former President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall. Last year, American and Mexican authorities found a “huge” tunnel with its own railroad tracks. Notorious drug dealer Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman also famously used a tunnel to escape from prison.

In addition to de Luna Olmos and Ramirez, prosecutors have also charged Mario Jaramillo, Adrian Enriquez, Manuel Perez and Juan Cruz with multiple drug distribution charges. It is not clear if they are represented by lawyers. They face a mandatory minimum of 10 years, with a maximum of life imprisonment and a $1 million fine.

news week has asked the US Attorney for comment.

https://www.newsweek.com/massive-tunnel-found-mexico-us-25m-drugs-6-arrested-1707179 ‘Massive tunnel’ found from Mexico to US containing $25 million worth of drugs, 6 arrested

Rick Schindler

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