Officers find border tunnel, 2 tons of pot

Associated Press
Published January 27, 2006

SAN DIEGO - Authorities said they discovered more than 2 tons of marijuana in a cross-border tunnel that began near the Tijuana airport and ended inside a warehouse on the U.S. side.

The 2,400-foot passageway is longer than most of the 21 cross-border tunnels that have been discovered since authorities began keeping track after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said. No arrests were made.

"It was like being in a cavern or a cave," said Michael Unzueta, customs special agent in charge in San Diego.

John Fernandes, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's San Diego office, said he suspected the tunnel was the work of Tijuana's Arellano-Felix drug smuggling syndicate or another drug cartel. He said tougher enforcement aboveground had forced smugglers to dig below.

The tunnel's discovery prompted the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego to open a criminal investigation, said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The tunnel exited into a large, two-story white warehouse in an industrial San Diego neighborhood near the border.

Mexican authorities found the entrance south of the border on Tuesday, and officers on the U.S. side found the exit Wednesday.

The tunnel was about 5 feet wide and high enough for an adult to stand inside, had a concrete floor and lights, and was equipped with a pulley system on the Mexican side.