NOGALES, Ariz. — U.S. and Mexican authorities shut down an incomplete drug smuggling tunnel Friday afternoon, following a multi-agency investigation by the Nogales Tunnel Task Force, which is led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Members of the task force developed information earlier this week that a drug smuggling tunnel was being constructed inside a residence located in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, just a few yards south of the international border fence near the Mariposa Port of Entry.
Working with their HSI counterparts in Hermosillo, Mexico, task force members notified Mexican authorities of the suspected tunnel. Mexican Secretaria de Defensa National (SEDENA) officials subsequently discovered the tunnel entrance in a backyard shed at the residence.
The tunnel is approximately 449 feet long, with approximately 60 feet in Mexico and 389 feet in the U.S. The tunnel is roughly four feet tall and ends underneath a canyon just east of the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, Ariz. The tunnel was incomplete and did not have a U.S. exit.
No people or drugs were found inside the passageway and no arrests have yet been made in the case, which remains under investigation by the Nogales Tunnel Task Force.
A total of 101 cross-border tunnels have been discovered in Nogales since 1990, including four in fiscal year 2014.
The Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) is an HSI-led, multi-agency U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiative to identify, disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations that seek to exploit vulnerabilities along U.S. borders. There are currently 34 BEST units deployed across the country, covering major seaports and southern and northern border regions. BEST units are composed of more than 750 law enforcement officers from more than 100 federal, state, local, tribal, and foreign law enforcement and intelligence resources.
BEST Nogales Tunnel Task Force is composed of full-time members from HSI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Border Patrol, Nogales Police Department, the Santa Cruz County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The BEST Nogales Tunnel Task Force is responsible for identifying, investigating and eliminating illicit subterranean tunnels in one of the nation's busiest border areas with Mexico and combating the Transnational Criminal Organizations that finance, build and use them.