Multi-Agency Task Force Uncovers Border Tunnel, Seizes 30 Tons of Marijuana
San Diego - The San Diego Tunnel Task Force uncovered a sophisticated 600-yard underground cross-border tunnel yesterday. Approximately 30 tons of marijuana seized in the U.S. and Mexico have been linked to the tunnel.
The tunnel is described as a crawlspace-sized passageway, connecting 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.
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, California Highway Patrol and Border Patrol agents stopped the vehicle. 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 $29 million.
"This major cross-border drug seizure is an outstanding example of border-centric intelligence fusion and coordination of operations with our law enforcement partners to target the criminal organizations that seek to do harm to our country," said Acting Chief Patrol Agent Richard Barlow.
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 U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Drug Enforcement Administration and the California National Guard.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.