Feds find cross-border smuggling tunnel, 30 tons of pot
SAN DIEGO (AP & CBS8) — Federal authorities in San Diego have made one of the largest marijuana seizures in the United States, confiscating approximately 30 tons of pot in and around an underground tunnel, which connected a warehouse in Otay Mesa, to a building in Tijuana, Mexico.
Mexican authorities seized another four tons of pot from the warehouse on their side of the border. Officials said the lightning-speed, 12-hour operation started Tuesday afternoon, when agents with the Tunnel Task Force noticed suspicious activity involving a tractor-trailer that was parked at the Otay Mesa warehouse. They decided to follow it as it left the building.
Border Patrol agents and CHP officers stopped the rig at a checkpoint in Temecula and authorities found 10 tons of marijuana inside. The driver, a U.S. citizen, and his Mexican wife were arrested and will be arraigned in San Diego on Thursday.
Authorities quickly obtained a federal search warrant to go inside the warehouse, where they discovered approximately 15 tons of marijuana. The total value of the seized marijuana is worth an estimated $20 million, said Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Director Morton.
They also found a wood door that opened to a hole leading to the tunnel, running the length of six football fields, under the border and into a warehouse in Tijuana, Morton said. Officials found packets being ready to be moved into the United States from the tunnel, which had lighting, ventilation and a rail system to send loads of illegal drugs into California.
"This is not a mom-and-pop operation. This is obviously the work of a cartel," said Morton, who held a news conference outside the warehouse in an industrial park near the Otay Mesa truck crossing, across from Tijuana.
Officials said the seizure was the largest ever in California and was believed to be the second-largest in the United States. Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized 33 tons of marijuana in Oregon in 2008, DEA special agent Ralph W. Partridge said.