US investigators seize 8 tons of cocaine, marijuana from border tunnel

US Authorities have uncovered a tunnel across the US-Mexico border that was used to transport tons of pounds of cocaine and marijuana.

Mike Blake/Reuters
United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy (l.) looks over the opening of a hole in the ground after the discovery of a cross-border tunnel from Tijuana, Mexico, to Otay Mesa, California, on Wednesday.

The United States has uncovered a half-mile-long tunnel across the border from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego, California, that officials say was used for running drugs.

Like the setting of a spy movie, the tunnel began with a closet elevator in a Tijuana home. The elevator led to an 874-yard-long tunnel, complete with a lights, ventilation, and a rail system.

Most similar tunnels end in warehouses or homes. However, this tunnel's users would have popped right out into the open air, in a lot ostensibly owned by a wood pallet business. The exit was covered unceremoniously by a trash bin.

In a bizarre way, this tunnel's open air nature may have helped hide its true identity.

"It's a rabbit hole," said Laura Duffy, US attorney for the Southern District of California, according to the Associated Press. "Just the whole way that it comes up and that it comes up out right into the open, it is a bit ingenious, I think, and it's something completely different than what we've seen."

Nearby neighbors who see the lot daily say that the current tenants moved in about one year ago. The company that owns the lot does a brisk trade in wooden pallets at very cheap prices, according to Margarita Ontiveros, who works in a law office next door.

US authorities seized more than a ton of cocaine and seven tons of marijuana from the tunnel. Investigators think that the first drug shipment occurred this month, though they are unsure exactly when the tunnel was constructed.

Border Patrol first started watching the lot last fall due to an upswing in activity, but the first arrests were made on Friday. Six individuals were arrested: one with US citizenship, two Cubans, and three Mexicans.

Officials' suspicions were heightened after they spotted a trash bin being forklifted onto a truck. Two days later, they stopped another truck after it left the lot and found over two thousand pounds of cocaine and eleven thousand pounds of marijuana.

This tunnel is not the first of its kind. Since 2006, officials have discovered thirteen such tunnels that terminate in California, including three that end on the same residential San Diego street.

Others have been found elsewhere along the border, particularly in California and Arizona.

Officials say that this region is popular for tunnel diggers due to the consistency of the soil and the accessibility of receiving facilities on either side of the border.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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