A 2,000-foot tunnel that ran between a warehouse in Tijuana to another one across the border in Otay Mesa was discovered by federal authorities last week, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in a release Tuesday.
The discovery was made by federal agents on the San Diego Tunnel Task Force on March 19, which also resulted in the seizure of around 1,300 pounds of cocaine, 86 pounds of methamphetamine, 17 pounds of heroin, 3,000 pounds of marijuana and more than two pounds of fentanyl, the release states.
“The large seizure of mixed drugs represents the first time in San Diego's history where five different types of drugs were found inside a tunnel,” the DEA reported.
The estimated street value of the drugs is about $29.6 million.
Agents say the the tunnel had likely existed for several months due to several points of advanced construction they found at several points along the passageway. The tunnel featured reinforced walls, ventilation, lighting, and even an underground rail system. It ran at an average depth of 31 feet and was about three-feet wide through most of the passageway.
Federal agents worked with their counterparts across the border after they "developed information about a transnational criminal organization suspected of smuggling narcotics into the U.S. via a cross-border tunnel. As the investigation progressed, agents worked in cooperation with the Fiscalia General de la Republica (FGR) and Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA) to locate the tunnel entrance in Mexico."
Agents then presented their evidence to a U.S. federal judge and were able to obtain a federal search warrant for the warehouse in Otay Mesa, where they found the exit point in the United States.
“Several months ago, agents on the San Diego Tunnel Task Force announced the seizure of the longest cross-border tunnel and today we announce the discovery of another sophisticated tunnel with large quantities of drugs seized from within,” DEA Special Agent in Charge John Callery said.
This isn't the longest tunnel found by authorities, a 4,309-feet tunnel stretching from a small industrial building in Tijuana to about a half-mile west of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry was discovered in late August last year.
That tunnel also had force-air ventilation, high-voltage electrical cables and panels, an elevator at the tunnel entrance, a complex drainage system and also had an extensive rail system.
“If cartels keep spending millions of dollars building tunnels, we will keep finding and filling them,” U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said. “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 second-longest cross-border tunnel into the United States, discovered in San Diego in 2014, was 2,966 feet long, the DEA reported.
Photo: Department of Homeland Security