updated 6/8/2010 1:44:13 PM ET 2010-06-08T17:44:13

Police have arrested 13 people they say excavated a 500-foot (150-meter) tunnel under a busy neighborhood in Mexico's capital to steal fuel from oil company pipelines, officials said Tuesday.

Roberto Navarro, public security director for the Mexico City borough of Miguel Hidalgo where the tunnel was built, said the state oil company told police it was losing gas in that neighborhood.

Navarro said federal and state police, along with oil company investigators made a surprise raid on the 10-foot (3-meter) wide tunnel on Monday. They found it 4.5 meters (15 feet) under the ground, stretching under more than a city block. Officers surrounded a 12-block area and made 13 arrests during the raid, but said at least three more suspects escaped.

The clandestine and complex engineering project has local officials concerned about the foundations of houses on top of it in the neighborhood, which is just northwest of the posh Polanco district.

"There were props, wiring for lights, home fans and a track that was used to carry the earth that was removed," said Navarro.

Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, is Mexico's government-run oil company. It has struggled with chronic theft, losing as much as 10 percent of all of its product.

Pemex sued five companies in the U.S. on Monday for allegedly buying stolen Mexican petroleum products.

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