NOGALES, Ariz. – A recently completed cross-border drug smuggling tunnel was shut down in Nogales, Ariz., Thursday following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and coordinated with the U.S. Border Patrol's Tucson Sector.
Department of Homeland Security agents and their counterparts from the Mexican Federal Police (SSP) entered both ends of the tunnel simultaneously early Thursday morning. No people were found, but SSP officers seized 550 pounds of bundled marijuana discovered inside. Evidence gathered during the investigation leads agents to believe the tunnel was only completed this week.
The tunnel is approximately 110 feet long and averages two feet wide and two feet tall with limited wooden shoring inside. The passageway did not have any ventilation or electrical equipment. The tunnel runs approximately five feet below the ground with numerous bends and elevation changes. One entrance is located in a front yard in Nogales, Mexico, and the other opening is located on an embankment south of a warehouse at Nelson and East International Streets in Nogales, Ariz. The entrance on the U.S. side was well concealed by natural vegetation and rocks.
"The discovery of this tunnel is yet another example of the power of collaboration between HSI, Border Patrol and the SSP," said Kevin Kelly, assistant special agent in charge of HSI Nogales. "Through vigilance and close cooperation, we were able to shut down this passageway before it was used to bring significant amounts of narcotics into the United States."
"Through partnerships, intelligence sharing and coordination we will continue to realize success in our collective efforts to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations operating in our area," said Chief Patrol Agent Rick Barlow with the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector. "In doing so, we will make our communities safer."
In the last three years, federal authorities have discovered and shut down 22 completed cross-border smuggling tunnels in the Nogales area.
The ongoing investigation is being conducted by HSI Nogales in coordination with the Tucson Sector Border Patrol; the SSP; HSI Hermosillo, Mexico; and the Nogales Police Department.