San Diego Drug Tunnel Yields 14 Tons of Marijuana

PHOTO: Authorities confirmed the existence of the tunnel Tuesday evening after obtaining a federal warrant to search the warehouse located at 8851 Kerns Street, near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.

A huge drug tunnel under the U.S. border south of San Diego, apparently dug by a Mexican drug cartel, has yielded 14 tons of marijuana, say U.S. and Mexican authorities.

The narrow opening of the 400-yard-long tunnel, outfitted with structural supports, electric lights and ventilation, was discovered by federal agents in a warehouse in the border neighborhood of Otay Mesa, California. After officers stopped a van leaving the warehouse and found three tons of marijuana aboard, they searched the warehouse and found more than six tons inside.

Mexican authorities then intercepted at least five additional tons at the other end of the tunnel in a warehouse near Tijuana's airport. The bales were stamped with a Captain America logo that Mexican authorities say is used by a Sinaloa-based drug cartel, according to press reports.

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Authorities have discovered 75 drug tunnels under the U.S./Mexico border since 2008, most in Otay Mesa, an area of industrial warehouses, and in Nogales, Arizona, where an existing drainage area underneath the border makes tunneling easy.

"The discovery of this tunnel is a tribute not only to the effectiveness of our joint investigative efforts, but also to the significant benefits we're gaining by using new technology to target this kind of smuggling activity," said Derek Benner, special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego. "The drug cartels mistakenly believe they can elude detection by taking their contraband underground, but, again and again, we've been able to find these tunnels and shut them down."

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The investigation is being conducted by the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, which was formed in 2003 and draws from ICE, Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol, the DEA and the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.

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The passageway uncovered Tuesday is the sixth major drug smuggling tunnel discovered in the San Diego area since 2006. Last year, local investigators identified two highly sophisticated tunnels in the area, one on Election Day and one three weeks later on Thanksgiving. The tunnels, which had rail tracks as well as ventilation and lighting, yielded a combined 50 tons of marijuana.

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