Interior of smuggling tunnel
The interior of the 2,000-foot-long smuggling tunnel. Courtesy DEA

Federal authorities announced Tuesday that agents uncovered a drug-smuggling tunnel that extends more than 2,000 feet from a warehouse in Tijuana to a warehouse in the Otay Mesa neighborhood.

Federal agents on the San Diego Tunnel Task Force made the discovery on March 19 and also seized roughly 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, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

“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 was estimated at $29.6 million.

The tunnel had an average depth of 31 feet and was about three-feet wide through most of the passageway.

Agents believe it has existed for several months because of the advanced construction they found at several points of the passageway, including reinforced walls, ventilation, lighting and an underground rail system, according to the DEA.

The task force, which includes members of Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, worked with the Fiscalia General de la Republica and Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional to locate the tunnel’s entrance in Mexico.

Agents then obtained a federal search warrant for a warehouse in Otay Mesa and 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.

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.

–City News Service