New tunnel passage discovered, 17 tons of marijuana confiscated

South Carolina Drug Crimes Attorneys

One of the most significant secret drug smuggling passages was discovered Tuesday, were 17 tons of marijuana was seized from the cross-border tunnel that stretches about 400 yards from ware

house in San Diego to Tijuana.

Nine tons of marijuana were seized from the San Diego warehouse and truck inside by U.S. authorities, said Derek Benner, U.S. Immigration and customs Enforcement special agent in charge of investigations in San Diego. Mexican authorities seized about eight tons.

The tunnel, equipped with lighting and ventilation systems, was about four feet high and three feet wide and dropped about 20 feet on the U.S. side of the border.

Cesar Beltran and Ruben Gomez were allegedly seen departing from the warehouse in a truck carrying three tons of marijuana were pulled over and arrested on Tuesday by a California Highway Patrol officer who was overwhelmed by the smell, as indicated by a federal complaint.

The two men face a maximum penalty of life in prison if they are convicted of conspiracy to distribute.

In recent years cross border tunnels have multiplied, though this discovery marks a significant find due to the amount of drugs seized.

Two of the largest U.S. marijuana busts occurred a year ago in other San Diego-Tijuana linked tunnels, where a combined 50 tons of marijuana were found. These passages were lined with rail tracks, as well as lighting and ventilation.

Other methods of drug transportation have emerged as U.S. authorities have started cracking down on land travel to smuggle marijuana. Tunnels, as well as single-engine wooden boats to travel up the Pacific Coast and low flying aircrafts that resemble motorized hang gliders are alternative methods of transportation.

Since October 2008, more than 70 tunnels have been found on the border, many clustered around San Diego and Nogales, Arizona. The clay-like soil in California is conducive to tunnel building as it is easy to dig into with shovels. In Nogales, smugglers access underground drains to move about through. Authorities said they found a drug tunnel running from a drain in Mexico to a rented house on the U.S. side.

U.S. authorities speculate that the recent tunnel findings suggest that a major Mexican drug cartel was involved though there has not been a link to establish that notion.