Federal authorities announced Wednesday that they busted a drug smuggling ring that ferried marijuana from Mexico to the U.S. through a cross-border tunnel. The tunnel is the 12th smuggling tunnel authorities found over the last 10 years in California.
Four people were arrested during the operation and 3,000 pounds of cannabis seized. Unlike other tunnels, this one had a house build on its U.S.-sided entrance, investigators reported.
The newly found smuggling tunnel is 400 yard-long, which is the length of about four football fields. Its northern entrance is located in Calexico, in southern California, while the southern entrance is masked by a restaurant in Mexicali a city in Mexico.
It is the first tunnel found by the U.S. in over a decade in Calexico, a town located 120 miles east of San Diego. Eleven more tunnels were found in San Diego area in the last decade.
According to authorities, the drug traffickers bought U.S. land last spring, while the house masking the tunnel was finished in December. Nevertheless, federal investigators kept an eye on smugglers by wiretapping them and keeping the house on a constant watch all the time.
“This house and tunnel were constructed under the watchful eye of law enforcement,”
noted the U.S. Attorney for Southern California Laura Duffy.
Duffy added that there was ‘no light at the end of the tunnel’ for the people that sponsored, built, and used the construction. Investigators were also dutifully watching a second safe house in Calexico and four possible smugglers before they busted the ring in early March.
The first loads of cannabis were seized on Mar. 7. That day, federal agents confiscated 1,350 pounds of marijuana that were being transported through the tunnel. On Tuesday, U.S. authorities took in custody the first two suspects in Arizona, two women that were relatives.
A day later, two men were arrested in Calexico. Authorities said that one suspect was found in the house while the other one was captured at the separate safe house. Federal agents found an extra load of more than 1,500 of cannabis in the passageway.
All four suspects will face charges for the illegal import and distribution of marijuana, according to prosecution.
Mexican drug cartels often use tunnels under the U.S.-Mexico border to smuggle illegal drugs into the country. Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the recently arrested Mexican drug lord, transported drugs and even escaped from a maximum detention center in 2015 through a tunnel.
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