SAN DIEGO—U.S. authorities said yesterday they discovered a cross-border tunnel that ran a half-mile from a Tijuana house equipped with a large elevator to a lot in San Diego that was advertised as a wooden pallet business, resulting in seizures of more than a ton of cocaine and seven tons of marijuana.
It was the 13th sophisticated secret passage found along California’s border with Mexico since 2006, including three on the same short street in San Diego that runs parallel to a border fence with a densely-populated residential area on the Mexican side.
The unusually narrow tunnel only was about three feet wide, equipped with a rail system, lighting, and ventilation.
The tunnel was unusual because it was used for cocaine, not just marijuana, said Laura Duffy, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California.
Tunnels often are built for marijuana because its bulk and odour make it more difficult to escape border inspectors’ scrutiny than cocaine and other drugs.
The elevator, which was big enough for eight-10 people, was located in the closet of a Tijuana house whose floors were strewn with mattresses, Duffy said.
The tunnel zig-zagged for 874 yards to the fenced commercial lot in San Diego, where the exit was covered by a large trash bin.
Other tunnels that have ended in California were inside houses and warehouses.
“Just the whole way that it comes up, and that it comes up out right into the open, it is a bit ingenious, I think, and it’s something completely different than what we’ve seen,” Duffy told reporters.
Investigators didn’t know when the tunnel was completed.
They began to monitor the lot daily last fall after U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the area saw heavy traffic and grew suspicious, said Duffy.