Federal agents discovered more than two tons of illegal drugs in a tunnel underneath the U.S. international border with Mexico, law enforcement officials announced on Tuesday. The drugs, which included marijuana, cocaine, meth, and opioids, have an estimated street value of nearly $30 million dollars, according to a press release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Cross-border tunnels represent one of the most significant threats to our national security,” said Aaron M. Heitke, a U.S. Border Patrol chief agent. “Criminal organizations can use these tunnels to introduce anything they want into the U.S. This is especially concerning during a global pandemic.”
The tunnel extended more than 2,000 underground from a warehouse in Tijuana, Mexico to another warehouse in the Otay Mesa area of San Diego and included sophisticated features including lighting, ventilation, reinforced walls, and a railway for smuggling drugs. The tunnel was located at an average depth of 31 feet underground and was three feet wide for much of its length.
“These tunnels show the determination of drug trafficking organizations to subvert our border controls and smuggle deadly drugs into our community,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge John W. Callery.
The tunnel was discovered on March 19 as part of an ongoing investigation by the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, which includes personnel from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the United States Attorney’s Office.
International Cooperation Leads To Bust
Agents from the task force had received information indicating that a criminal enterprise was using a cross-border tunnel to smuggle drugs into the United States. The task force shared the information with officials in the Mexican government, leading to the discovery of the tunnel’s entrance in the Tijuana warehouse. Agents then obtained a search warrant for the warehouse in San Diego and discovered the tunnel’s exit point.
Inside the tunnel, the task force discovered more than 4,400 pounds of illicit drugs including 3,000 pounds of marijuana, 1,300 pounds of cocaine, 86 pounds of methamphetamine, 17 pounds of heroin, and more than two pounds of fentanyl. The total street value of the drugs was estimated at $29.6 million. The discovery marks the first time that five different drugs were found in a cross-border tunnel to San Diego.
“This is the most valuable single-day tunnel seizure in recent memory, and it is the largest seizure of multiple drugs in a single tunnel,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “This takedown is even more significant in the face of a global pandemic, where stopping the movement of unauthorized people and packages across international borders is of utmost importance.”
The tunnel is located near a new section of the border wall that was visited by President Trump in September. In January, a different tunnel that stretched for more than 4,300 feet from Tijuana to San Diego was discovered, making it the longest drug-smuggling tunnel discovered beneath the U.S. border with Mexico.