Federal authorities in San Diego said Wednesday that they had discovered an 800-yard secret tunnel — believed to be the longest ever found in California — under the U.S.-Mexico border, leading to the seizure of more than a ton of cocaine and seven tons of marijuana.
The tunnel extends 300 yards from a house in Tijuana, Mexico, to the border and then 500 yards on the U.S. side to a fenced lot in the San Diego industrial area of Otay Mesa.
The tunnel was equipped with a rail system, ventilation, lights and a large elevator, officials said. The exit on the U.S. side is about 3 feet wide and was covered by a trash bin. U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy told reporters the bin was used to store narcotics that had been spirited into the U.S.
Six people were arrested in San Diego on Friday and charged with crimes involving drugs and construction of the tunnel.
Duffy said Border Patrol agents had the lot under surveillance for months after a fellow agent alerted them to it last year. Authorities believe the operation that was foiled Friday had followed a series of dry runs over the prior few months.
In all, agents found 68 packages of marijuana weighing a combined 1,600 pound inside the tunnel, Duffy said. Another 11,000 pounds of cannabis and 2,242 pounds of cocaine collected from the trash bin were found in a truck. Another 1,430 pounds of marijuana were found inside the bin.
The discovery demonstrates the enduring appeal of tunnels to smugglers, despite the significant time and money required to build one. Dozens of tunnels have been found along the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years, some equipped with hydraulic lifts and electric rail cars. Most of the tunnels found were in California and Arizona, many of them incomplete.
The San Diego-Tijuana region is popular because its clay-like soil is relatively easy to dig with shovels and pneumatic tools, and both sides of the border have warehouses that provide cover for trucks and heavy equipment.
The latest discovery was revealed two days after Border Patrol agents found a 140-foot-long drug tunnel two miles east of Calexico, Calif.