Image: Drug tunnel
Photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
msnbc.com news services
updated 8/18/2011 12:59:45 PM ET 2011-08-18T16:59:45

Authorities in Nogales, Ariz., this week shut down a 90-foot-long smuggling tunnel spanning the U.S.-Mexican border and arrested two men and a boy.

"Anytime you see electricity, ventilation and shoring, it's pretty sophisticated," said Vincent Picard, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Agents were conducting surveillance along the border Tuesday when they spotted a truck with Arizona license plates and noticed suspicious activity around it, according to an ICE press release. Agents followed the truck as it left, pulled it over and discovered 2,621 pounds of marijuana inside.

ICE agents learned that the marijuana was delivered to the truck via an underground tunnel and then worked with the Border Patrol to locate it.

The tunnel is about three feet wide and three feet tall, with half of it in the United States and half within Mexico, officials said. It's about four-and-a-half feet below street level, with a 10-inch exit on the U.S. side, sealed with a piece of concrete held in place from below by a floor jack.

Investigators found shoring constructed of two-by-fours and plywood, electrical cords and tubes to provide ventilation, Picard said.

The three people arrested in the truck made their first court appearance in Tucson, Ariz., on Wednesday. They are Anthony Maytorena, 19, a U.S. citizen from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico; Jorge Vargas Ruiz, 18, of Nogales, Ariz.; and a boy from Mexico, whose name was not released.

More than 50 smuggling tunnels have been found in southern Arizona since 2008, mostly in and around Nogales, Picard said.

The next step for U.S. and Mexican authorities, Picard said, will be to fill in or collapse the tunnel where possible to make it unusable by other smugglers.

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