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Border Tunnel Yields|12 Tons of Marijuana

SAN DIEGO (CN) - Twelve tons of marijuana were seized and 22 people arrested as federal agents busted a half-mile long tunnel from Tijuana to San Diego, complete with lights, air-conditioning and railroad tracks to move the drugs.

The sophistication of the tunnel led officials to believe it was dug by Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman's organization. Guzman escaped in July from a high-security prison in Mexico City, his second such escape.

Two suspected ringleaders were arrested Wednesday night and indicted Friday on two federal charges of conspiring to smuggle more than 1,500 kilos (3,300 lbs.) of marijuana into the United States.

An undercover agent helped move dirt out of the warehouse on Otay Mesa where the tunnel emerged. The alleged ringleaders were arrested when the agent learned plans were afoot to move the marijuana out of the warehouse.

Mexican police arrested 16 people in Tijuana and seized 10 tons of pot, and San Diego sheriff's deputies arrested four on this side.

The tunnel emerged at Otay Center Warehouse, about half a mile from the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, a border crossing favored by commercial vehicles.

Like the tunnel through which Guzman escaped, a small, covered opening capped a shaft, in this case 32 feet down, to the tunnel, which was shored against collapse. It was the tenth tunnel found under the San Diego-Tijuana border, and one of the longest and best-built found yet by the Tunnel Task Force, which includes agents from the Border Patrol, Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations.

At least 75 drug tunnels have been found under the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mexican officials said this week that Guzman has been spotted in the mountains of Sinaloa state, his operation's home base. Dozens of people have been arrested in Mexico on suspicion of helping him escape - all but one of them government officials.

His escape embarrassed some Mexican officials, as the country had resisted U.S. efforts to extradite him. The Mexican man on the street was less surprised, as government involvement with drug cartels is taken for granted there.

The cartels target police academies with a tried and true system of plomo o plata - lead or silver - join the cartel or die. The late Charles Bowden, an expert on Mexican drug rings, reported that entire classes of Mexican police academies have been hired by cartels upon graduation, except those who refused to join, and refused to work for police either.

Charged in the federal indictment Thursday are Isaias Enriquez, 53, and Isidro Silva Acosta, 27, both of Tijuana. If convicted of either charge they could be sentenced to life in prison.

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