SAN DIEGO (CN) — A San Diego drug bust uncovered the longest drug tunnel ever found on the Mexican border, along with a metric ton of cocaine and 11,000 lbs. of marijuana, federal officials said Wednesday.
It was the second month in a row that a drug tunnel has been found in San Diego.
State and federal law enforcement agencies had been watching a lot in an industrial park on Otay Mesa for months, because something about it “just didn’t add up,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said Wednesday.
The lot filled with wood pallets and scraps drew attention from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the San Diego Police Department, the Border Patrol and others.
On April 12, agents saw a commercial truck deliver an industrial Dumpster to a lot on the 1000 block of Marconi Drive and Enrico Fermi Drive in Otay Mesa, about 500 yards from the
The truck backed up, and directed by the defendants, dropped the Dumpster on what turned out to be a hole descending 10 feet into a tunnel.
The next day, agents saw two people cover the Dumpster with a tarp, load it onto a truck and drive it to a parking lot on Imperial Avenue near 30th Street, near downtown San Diego. The Dumpster was unloaded onto a large box truck, which sheriff’s officers nabbed when it left the lot.
They found 2,242 lbs. of cocaine and 11,030 lbs. of marijuana, Duffy said.
Federal agents obtained search warrants for the lot in Otay Mesa, where they found another 68 packages of marijuana weighing 1,638 lbs.
The haul came to 14,000 lbs. of marijuana and 2,242 lbs. of cocaine, the largest cocaine seizure ever from a border tunnel, Duffy said.
Equipped with rail, lights and ventilation systems, the zigzagging tunnel is at least 800 yards long — about half a mile, Duffy said.
On the Mexican side of the border, the tunnel led to a house in Tijuana, through a “sophisticated” elevator that could hold 8 to 10 people.
“On the surface, few would ever suspect that traffickers were moving multi-ton quantities of cocaine and marijuana worth tens of millions of dollars in such an unassuming way, through this rabbit hole in the ground, in full view of the world around it,” Duffy said. “We can thank the hyper-vigilant agents who work this area for seeing what many of us would have missed.”
The agents who worked the operation believe “with some degree of confidence” that last week’s attempted delivery was the first load to actually cross the border, Duffy said.
“Historically, seizures from drug tunnels have been marijuana and small amounts of cocaine. A 2,000-lb. cocaine seizure tells DEA and our law enforcement partners that these groups have to resort to unsophisticated tunnels to try and push through what amounts to a $22 million loss just in cocaine alone,” DEA Agent in Charge of San Diego William Sherman said.
Agents believe they know which drug cartel is responsible for the tunnel, but Duffy declined to disclose that information.
A Border Patrol doing community outreach noticed suspicious activity at the industrial lot where the tunnel ended, and the surveillance and arrests followed.
Six people have been arrested and arraigned in Federal Court.
Accused in a two-count April 18 conspiracy indictment are Martiniano Garcia-Sedano, Cruz Armando Parra Corrales, and Alejandro Bravo.
Accused in a separate indictment with conspiring to distribute marijuana and cocaine are Juan Carlos Chavez Fabian, Alejandro Gomez-Baez and Osmel Martinez.
Three were arrested at the industrial lot and three at the secondary location near downtown San Diego, Duffy said. One suspect is a U.S. citizen, two are asylees from Cuba and the three others are Mexican nationals who had border-crossing privileges.
If convicted of conspiracy to import cocaine and marijuana and conspiracy to use a border tunnel, they could be sentenced to life in prison, Duffy said
The tunnel was the 13th large-scale drug smuggling tunnel discovered along the California border since 2006, Duffy said.
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