published Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Cross-border drug tunnel equipped with rail system

This Oct. 30, 2013 photo released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows a tunnel inking warehouses in Tijuana and San Diego to smuggle drugs. The tunnel is equipped with electricity, ventilation and a rail system, U.S. authorities said Thursday, Oct. 31, making it one of the more sophisticated secret passages discovered along the U.S.-Mexico border.
This Oct. 30, 2013 photo released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows a tunnel inking warehouses in Tijuana and San Diego to smuggle drugs. The tunnel is equipped with electricity, ventilation and a rail system, U.S. authorities said Thursday, Oct. 31, making it one of the more sophisticated secret passages discovered along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

SAN DIEGO — A tunnel designed to smuggle drugs from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego is equipped with electricity, ventilation and a rail system, U.S. authorities said Thursday, making it one of the more sophisticated secret passages discovered along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Authorities seized more than 8 tons of marijuana and 325 pounds of cocaine in connection with the discovery, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said. Three suspects were in U.S. custody.

The tunnel links warehouses in Tijuana and San Diego's Otay Mesa industrial area. The area is filled with nondescript warehouses, making it easier to conceal trucks being loaded with drugs.

The tunnel was found Wednesday and completed only recently, ICE said. Authorities did not say exactly when it was built or whether drugs are believed to have gotten through undetected.

As U.S. border security has heightened on land, Mexican drug cartels have turned to ultralight aircraft, small fishing boats and tunnels. More than 75 underground passages have been discovered along the border since 2008, designed largely to smuggle marijuana.

The tunnels are concentrated along the border in California and Arizona. San Diego is popular because its clay-like soil is easy to dig. In Nogales, Ariz., smugglers tap into vast underground drainage canals.

The tunnel is the eighth major passage discovered in San Diego since 2006, a period during which Mexico's Sinaloa cartel has solidified its hold on the prized smuggling corridor. ICE said Wednesday's tunnel was the first in the San Diego area that was found to be used for cocaine.

U.S. and Mexican authorities did not disclose the dimensions of the tunnel.

In November 2011, authorities found a 600-yard tunnel that resulted in seizures of 32 tons of marijuana on both sides of the border, with 26 tons found on the U.S. side, accounting for one of the largest pot busts in U.S. history. The tunnel was equipped with electric rail cars, lighting and ventilation. Wooden planks lined the floor.

On Thanksgiving Day of 2010, authorities found a roughly 700-yard passage equipped with rail tracks that extended from the kitchen of a Tijuana home to two San Diego warehouses, netting about 22 tons of marijuana on both sides of the border.

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