November 16, 2011
Contact: Kameron Korte
Phone Number: (858) 616-4100
Major Cross-Border Drug Tunnel Discovered South Of San Diego
Authorities recover an estimated 14 tons of marijuana tied to passageway
SAN DIEGO , CA - Investigators on the multi-agency San Diego Tunnel Task Force continued sifting through evidence Wednesday at a warehouse in Otay Mesa’s industrial park housing the U.S. entrance to a sophisticated passageway that runs beneath the border to a warehouse more than 400 yards away in Tijuana, Mexico.
Authorities confirmed the existence of the tunnel Tuesday evening after obtaining a federal warrant to search the warehouse located at 8851 Kerns Street, near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. Inside the nondescript white building, investigators discovered the entrance to the passageway. From the warehouse floor, the tunnel plunges more than 20 feet to the bottom of the shaft. The passageway, measuring approximately four feet by three feet, is equipped with structural supports, electricity and ventilation. Evidence found inside the warehouse leads investigators to believe the tunnel was only recently completed.
“The fact that this is the third sophisticated cross border tunnel found within a year’s time demonstrates the cartels will stop at nothing to smuggle their drugs into the United States,” said William R. Sherman, Acting Special Agent in Charge for the DEA in San Diego. “The seizure of marijuana coupled with the loss of yet another tunnel will deal a heavy blow to those responsible for constructing this tunnel.”
The Tunnel Task Force recently began conducting surveillance on the Otay Mesa warehouse after observing possible suspicious activity at the site. Tuesday afternoon, agents spotted a small cargo truck leaving the facility. Officers with the California Highway Patrol subsequently pulled the truck over on Highway 125 near the warehouse. Inside the trailer, officers discovered approximately three tons of marijuana packed in boxes. The male driver and a male passenger were taken into custody at the scene and are facing federal drug charges.
Based upon the results of the vehicle stop, agents obtained a warrant to enter the warehouse, where they recovered approximately 6 ½ additional tons of marijuana. Meanwhile, Task Force officers alerted authorities in Mexico, who made entry into the Tijuana warehouse, resulting in the seizure of another five to six tons of marijuana.The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, made up of representatives from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’(ICE) Homeland Security (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border (CBP) Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement (DEA), and the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement. Formed in 2003, the Task Force uses a variety of techniques to detect cross-border tunnels, from state-of-the-art electronic surveillance to old fashioned detective work. That includes following up on tips, many of which come from the public.