'First Ever' Tunnel Discovered Between Canada and US
JUL 21--(Seattle, WA) Three men are under arrest and a lengthy investigation is continuing into a sophisticated tunnel running from British Columbia, Canada, into Washington State. The tunnel, located just east of the Lynden/Aldergrove border crossing, has been under construction for more than a year. The tunnel is approximately 360 feet long and runs at a depth of between three and ten feet. It is reinforced with iron rebar and 2x6 wood supports. Both Canadian and American law enforcement have been monitoring the construction of the tunnel and today shut the tunnel down after a lengthy investigation into the individuals involved in building the tunnel, and using it for illegal drug trafficking.
FRANCIS DEVANDRA RAJ, 30, TIMOTHY WOO, 34, and JOHNATHAN VALENZUELA, 27, all of Surrey, BC, were charged today in U.S. District Court in Seattle with Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana, and Conspiracy to Import Marijuana. RAJ owns the property on the Canadian side of the border where the entrance to the tunnel is hidden under a Quonset hut. On the American side, the tunnel terminates beneath the living room floor of a home located at 151 East Boundary Road, in Lynden, Washington. Construction of the tunnel was completed in early July 2005.
Using a delayed notice search warrant, DEA and other federal agents entered the home July 2, 2005, to examine the tunnel. Shortly thereafter a U.S. District Judge authorized the installation of cameras and listening devices in the home to monitor activities in the home. Using these devices, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and various other federal, state and local law enforcement authorities, observed multiple trips by RAJ, WOO, and VALENZUELA through the tunnel carrying large hockey bags or garbage bags.
DEA agents were able to apprehend several loads of marijuana and ecstasy that the conspirators had tried to move through the tunnel.
Although tunnels have been found at the southern border of the United States, this is the first tunnel ever discovered between Canada and the U.S.
"This tunnel seizure, the first of its kind on the United States and Canada border, is one of only 34 cross-border tunnels ever discovered in the United States. This unregulated and uncontrolled point of entry could have constituted a real threat to the United States, not only in terms of drug trafficking, but to the national security of our nation," stated Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Seattle Field Division, Rodney Benson.
"The presence of a tunnel on our northern border threatens the security of countries, whether it is used to smuggle drugs, contraband or even terrorists," stated United States Attorney John McKay. "Shutting it down, just as it is completed, is a huge blow to these criminals."
"This tunnel was ambitious, sophisticated and an example of the lengths individuals and criminal organizations will go to for illegal profits. Thanks to an intelligence-led investigation and a coordinated approach between Canadian and U.S. agencies it has been shut down," said Inspector Pat Fogarty, Officer in Charge of CFSEU-BC Team 3.
Canada's Border Services Agency became aware of the tunnel construction in February 2005 and alerted the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC). That unit of the RCMP was launched in April 2004 to fight organized crime in British Columbia. Canadian and American law enforcement organizations coordinated their efforts to make sure all activity in the tunnel was monitored and that prosecutions could proceed on both sides of the border. The tunnel will now be destroyed so it cannot be used for any smuggling or other illegal activities.
In addition to officers and agents from DEA, ICE, CBP, RCMP, and CFSEU-BC, officers and agents from Canada Border Services Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) as well as the Washington State Patrol and Northwest Drug Task Force participated in the investigation.
The three men arrested will make their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:30 today.