US authorities have found a large drug smuggling tunnel the length of six football fields leading from Mexico to a warehouse in an industrial area in San Diego.
The Tijuana to San Diego secret passage had rail and ventilation systems, electricity and reinforced walls, authorities said.
It measures 1,744 feet in length and is 61 feet deep, agents with the Homeland Security Investigations said Monday.
It was discovered near the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego, in an area where more than a dozen other elaborate tunnels have been found over the past two decades.
The tunnel, which runs between Tijuana, Mexico and the United States, is estimated to be about 1,744 feet long, 61 feet deep and 4 feet in diameter, with reinforced walls, a rail system, electricity and a ventilation system
It was discovered near the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego, in an area where more than a dozen other elaborate tunnels have been found over the past two decades
A photo shows the inside of a cross-border tunnel between Mexico and the United States, following the announcement of the discovery of an underground tunnel at a warehouse in San Diego
A law enforcement officer is on Monday at the opening of a cross-border tunnel
A soldier with the Mexican Armed Forces stands outside a house where the opening of a cross-border tunnel between Mexico and the United States was discovered in Tijuana, Mexico.
Agents were monitoring a “known drug stash” in National City, south of downtown San Diego.
US authorities said it was not known how long the tunnel had been in operation and what amount, if any, of drugs had slipped through undetected. They seized 1,762 pounds (799 kg) of cocaine, 165 pounds (75 kg) of meth and 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg) of heroin in connection with the investigation.
Six people, ranging in age from 31 to 55, were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. All are residents of Southern California and have pleaded not guilty.
The tunnel is in one of the most heavily fortified sections of the border, illustrating the boundaries of the border walls.
The tunnel ran the length of six football fields on US soil to a warehouse in an industrial area, but its entry point was here
Approximately 1,700 pounds of cocaine, 164 pounds of meth and 3.5 pounds of heroin were seized from the warehouse, where an exit point was carved out of the ground
Built on one of the most heavily fortified sections of the border, it illustrates the boundaries of former President Donald Trump’s border wall
While walls are said to be effective against small, crudely constructed tunnels known as “gopher holes,” they pose no problem for more challenging passages that run deeper underground.
The latest passage discovered Friday ran a third of a mile to Tijuana. It was four feet in diameter and about six stories deep.
The nature of the drugs seized could signal a departure from the multi-ton shipments of marijuana often found in discoveries before California legalized recreational cannabis in 2019.
Hard drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl are typically smuggled out of Mexico through official border crossings because their small size and lack of odor make them difficult to detect. But tunnels offer smugglers the advantage of being able to transport huge loads at lightning speed.
The tunnel exited the United States at a nondescript warehouse called “Amistad Park” on a street busy with large semi-trailers during the day but quiet at night.
A photo shows confiscated drugs following the discovery of a cross-border tunnel
The tunnel connected to a warehouse 300 feet north of the US-Mexico border
On Monday, armed guards guarded a small shaft with a ladder leading down into the tunnel.
After staking out a home recently used for drug stashes, officers began stopping vehicles that had been there or at a warehouse near the border and uncovering boxes of cocaine, according to a federal criminal complaint filed in San Diego emerges.
They followed two suspects who left the house in a vehicle and drove to the camp.
“While searching the camp, agents discovered an elaborate border tunnel exit point carved into the cement floor,” said US Attorney Randy Grossman.
“We allege that our defendants drove into the garage and loaded and dropped off boxes of drugs to facilitate the movement and distribution of drugs into the United States.”
Mexican forces stand outside a home where the opening of a cross-border tunnel between Mexico’s Tijuana and the San Diego area was discovered
Police tape from the crime scene is seen above a gate of a ramshackle house in Tijuana
They searched the properties and found no other drugs in the warehouse, but a tunnel opening carved into the cement floor, federal prosecutors said.
The tunnel is the 91st in the Tijuana-San Diego area and the 272nd tunnel found along the entire border since 1993.
Authorities have found about 15 elaborate tunnels along the California-Mexico border since 2006.
Many tunnels, including the one announced Monday, are located in San Diego’s Otay Mesa industrial area, where clayey soil is conducive to digging and warehouses provide cover.
The cross-border passages date back to the early 1990s and were primarily used for smuggling tons of marijuana.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration said in 2020 that they are generally found in California and Arizona and are linked to Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel.
Authorities declined to link the latest tunnel to any particular cartel. They claimed victory despite not knowing how long it had been in operation.
“There’s no light at the end of this narco tunnel,” said Randy Grossman, US Attorney for the Southern District of California.
“We will eliminate any underground smuggling routes we find to prevent illegal drugs from reaching our streets and destroying our families and communities.”
Federal law requires US authorities to fill the US side of tunnels with concrete after they are discovered.