San Diego drug tunnel had railcar, tons of pot - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

San Diego drug tunnel had railcar, tons of pot

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SAN DIEGO – U.S. authorities said Friday that they seized tons of marijuana in connection with a cross-border tunnel that was equipped with a rail car — the second discovery of a major underground drug passage in San Diego this month.

The tunnel found Thursday is 2,200 feet long — more than seven football fields — and runs from the kitchen of a home in Tijuana, Mexico, to two warehouses in San Diego's Otay Mesa industrial district, said Mike Unzueta, head of investigations at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego.

The Mexican entry features an entry shaft lined with cinderblocks and a rail system for drugs to be carried on a small cart, Unzueta said. The tunnel had fluorescent lighting and a ventilation system.

Two men, both believed to be U.S. citizens, were arrested in the United States Thursday on suspicion of conspiracy to smuggle and distribute drugs, Unzueta said. The Mexican military raided a ranch in Mexico and made five arrests in connection with the tunnel.

U.S. authorities followed a trailer from one of the warehouses to a Border Patrol checkpoint in Temecula, where they seized 27,600 pounds of marijuana, Unzueta said. The driver, whose name was not released, was arrested, along with another drive who went to a residence in suburban El Cajon that had $13,500 cash inside.

"That (trailer) was literally filled top to bottom, front to back," Unzueta said. "There wasn't any room for anything else in that tractor-trailer but air."

An estimated three to four tons of marijuana was found in a "subterranean room" and elsewhere in the tunnel on the U.S. side, Unzueta said. Mexican authorities believe they seized another three to four tons of pot in Mexico, potentially bringing the total to about 21 tons.

Earlier this month, agents made one of the largest marijuana seizures in the United States when they confiscated 20 tons of marijuana they said was smuggled through another cross-border tunnel. A warehouse involved in the tunnel discovered Thursday is only a half-block away.

Unzueta said both tunnels are believed to be the work of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel, headed by that country's most-wanted drug lord, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

"We think ultimately they are controlled by the same overall cartel but that the tunnels were being managed and run independently by different cells operating within the same organization," Unzueta said.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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