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An anti-drug task force found two sophisticated tunnels under the border between Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego this week, including one with electric lighting and a rail system that emerged in a toy warehouse, the latest in two miles of cross-border tunnels they’ve found in the San Diego area in just the past two years.
A tunnel found Tuesday was 70 feet underground and stretched 600 yards from Mexico to 101045 Via de la Amistad in the Otay Mesa neighborhood of San Diego, just yards from the international border. Equipped with lighting, a rail system and a pulley to hoist contraband to the surface, the tunnel’s U.S. entrance was in a warehouse filled with televisions and children’s toys, including plastic three-wheelers.
On Wednesday, investigators with the San Diego Tunnel Task Force arrested a 73-year-old Chula Vista, Calif., woman for allegedly overseeing the logistics of the Via de la Amistad warehouse tunnel. She is charged with conspiracy.
The second tunnel, which was longer and more sophisticated, was discovered by Mexican authorities working with agents from ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations. It stretched more than 700 yards from Tijuana to 10005 Marconi Drive and included ventilation and a multi-tiered electric rail system to move contraband.
"Here we are again, foiling cartel plans to sneak millions of dollars of illegal drugs through secret passageways that cost millions of dollars to build," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. "Going underground is not a good business plan. We have promised to locate these super tunnels and keep powerful drug cartels from taking their business underground and out of sight, and once again, we have delivered on that promise."
“While technology certainly plays a part in our ongoing efforts, ultimately these investigations often owe more to the powers of observation and old fashioned detective work – and that was exactly what happened here,” said Derek Benner, special agent in charge of HSI San Diego.
No contraband was seized in either tunnel, the sixth and seventh cross-border tunnels discovered in the San Diego area in the past four years. Authorities have recovered more than 100 tons of narcotics from the tunnels.
Since 2006, authorities have discovered at least 80 drug tunnels between Mexico and the U.S., mostly in California and Arizona.