San Diego federal authorities discovered a 600- yard long tunnel used to smuggle humans and illicit drugs from Mexico into America.
The tunnel linked the two countries as builders were able to dig underneath the U.S. border which gave smugglers the ability to use two warehouses, one in Tijuana, Mexico and the other in San Diego as their entry and exit points.
A multi-agency tunnel task force also snagged more than 20 tons of marijuana that was set to make its way into the United States illegal drug market.
The underground tunnel was well equipped, complete with a rail transportation system, lighting and ventilation, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Even though the tunnel used sophisticated construction, it wasn’t large enough for a person to stand up and walk the entire 600-yards.
The tunnel was located after multi-task force agents conducted surveillance on a semi-truck and trailer that was leaving a warehouse near the U.S. border.
Authorities followed the truck to a Border Patrol checkpoint in Temecula on highway 15. At the Border Patrol check point agents searched the truck and found 10 tons of marijuana inside, Amy Roderick of ICE said at a press conference. She said the driver and a passenger were taken into custody and are expected to face multiple federal drug smuggling charges.
Following the seizure, task force agents obtained a search warrant for the warehouse and found the tunnel, according to Roderick.
Once the U.S. warehouse was located ICE alerted Mexican authorities and they found another four tons of marijuana in the Tijuana warehouse where the tunnel ended. Roderick said, the marijuana recovered totaled almost 30 tons and has a street value of at least $20 million.
"What's unusual about this one is the amount of marijuana found as part of this investigation," ICE spokesperson Lauren Mack said. "There’s been some pretty big drug busts and we're not letting our guard down."
American law enforcement agencies continue to work with their counterparts in Mexico to slow the trafficking of drugs, humans, money and arms that flows both directions across the U.S./Mexico borders.
"We've also been enjoying an unprecedented cooperation with Mexican law enforcement in recent years," Mack explained. "So we get a lot of information from the Mexicans, and vice versa."
Detailed information provided by ICE said in the last four years there have been more than 75 tunnels discovered by law enforcement agencies. Some of the tunnels were complete while others were only partially finished. A similar tunnel was found in San Diego in January 2006 that also linked the two countries through a warehouse and included sophisticated lighting and ventilation systems.
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