Major, Underground, 6 Football Fields-Long Drug Smuggling Tunnel Found Linking Tijuana, Mexico & San Diego, CA

Sophisticated Tunnel was 1/3rd of a mile long, 4 feet in diameter, and approximately 6 stories deep undergroud

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Texas Insider Report) — The discovery of a cross-border drug smuggling tunnel announced by U.S. authorities on Monday between Tijuana, Mexico and the San Diego area included rail and ventilation systems, electricity and reinforced walls, and other modern amenities authorities said. The tunnel exited the United States in a nondescript warehouse named “Amistad Park” – about 300 feet north of the border – on a street that is busy with large semitrailers during the day, but quiet at night. 

It was discovered near the U.S. Customs & Border Patrol's San Diego Otay Mesa Border Crossing in an area where more than a dozen other sophisticated tunnels have been found in the last two decades.

The discovery was made following an investigation by members of the San Diego Costa Pacifico Money Laundering Task Force, which include Homeland Security Investigations, San Diego Sheriff’s Department, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Customs & Border Protection, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

After staking out a home that was recently used to stash drugs, officials began making traffic stops of vehicles that had been there or at the Via de la Amistad warehouse, and seized boxes full of cocaine, according to a federal criminal complaint filed in San Diego.

After searching the warehouse properties – finding a tunnel opening carved into the cement floor, U.S. officials and federal prosecutors said they seized:
  • 1,762 pounds (799 kg) of Cocaine
  • 165 pounds (75 kg) of Meth, and
  • 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg) of Heroin in connection with the investigation
In total, the estimated value of the drugs seized is approximately $25 million, said Juan Muñoz, Deputy Special Agent In Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego.

U.S. authorities said it was unknown how long the tunnel had been operating and what amount of drugs, if any, got through undetected.

Six people, ages 31 to 55, were charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine. All are Southern California residents.
Compared to the more frequent, small, and crudely built tunnels called “gopher holes,” this tunnel runs underneath one of the most fortified stretches of the border and illustrates the effectiveness of border walls. 

The sophisticated passage, discovered Friday, ran one-third of a mile to Tijuana. It was 4 feet in diameter, and was constructed at a depth undergroud of approximately six stories deep.

The type of drugs seized may signal a shift from the multi-ton loads of marijuana that were most often found in during similar discoveries – before California legalized pot for recreational use in 2019.

Hard drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl, are typically smuggled through official border crossings because of their smaller size, lack of odor, and difficulty in detecting. But tunnels give smugglers the ability to transport huge loads of illegal drugs at lightning speeds.

Since 1993, U.S. authorities have discovered 90 such passages on Southern California’s border with Mexico. Of those, 27 were considered sophisticated, including about 15 sophisticated tunnels since 2006.

San Diego’s Otay Mesa area includes clay-like soil that is conducive to digging, and the industrial warehouses provide cover.

The cross-border passages date back to the early 1990s and have been used primarily to smuggle multi-ton loads of marijuana. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in 2020 that cross-border tunnels are generally found in California and Arizona, and were associated with Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel.

Authorities declined to link the latest tunnel to any specific cartel, and declined to say how long the tunnel had been in operation.
“We will take down every subterranean smuggling route we find to keep illicit drugs from reaching our streets and destroying our families and communities,” said Randy Grossman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California.

By federal law, U.S. authorities must fill the U.S. side of tunnels with concrete after they are discovered.