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Contraband
12/02/2009

U.S., Mexican authorities discover major cross-border tunnel near San Diego

Passageway equipped with lighting, ventilation and elevator systems

SAN DIEGO - Mexican authorities, acting on information provided by federal investigators from the multi-agency San Diego Tunnel Task Force, conducted enforcement actions Wednesday targeting a sophisticated, but still incomplete underground passageway that originates in Tijuana, Mexico, and extends more than 860 feet into the United States.

The tunnel, which measures just under 1,000 feet in length overall and reaches a depth of 90 to 100 feet, did not have an entry point in the United States. The passageway has lighting, electrical and ventilation systems and is equipped with an elevator. When Mexican authorities entered the passageway Wednesday morning on the Mexican side, they encountered more than a dozen individuals who were subsequently taken into custody. All of those arrested are believed to be Mexican citizens.

Initial reports indicate the tunnel has been under construction for approximately two years. So far, there have been no arrests in the United States, but the investigation is ongoing.

Here in the United States, the investigation into the tunnel is being spearheaded by the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, which is made up of agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Border Patrol, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement. The enforcement efforts in Tijuana are being led by the Government of Mexico.

"The fact we found this tunnel before it could be completed is a testament to the extraordinary work of the Tunnel Task Force," said Michael Carney, acting special agent in charge for the ICE Office of Investigations in San Diego. "As a result of our proactive efforts, we are detecting more and more of these tunnels before they can be finished and put to use by criminal organizations involved in smuggling drugs and other contraband."

"The discovery of this unfinished tunnel bears witness to the extraordinary cooperation between all agencies involved in the task force and the Government of Mexico," says DEA Special Agent in Charge Ralph W. Partridge. "It is extremely important to the San Diego area and the entire United States that this cooperative effort stopped the completion of this drug smuggling corridor before even an ounce of drugs could be transported through it."

"This result clearly reflects the commitment put forth by the government of Mexico to confront cross-border threats and build upon the bilateral partnerships established with U.S. law enforcement agencies," said San Diego Border Patrol Sector Chief Michael Fisher.

The Task Force uses an array of high-tech equipment and intelligence information to pinpoint the location of underground passageways along the border in the region. To date, federal authorities have discovered more than 120 cross-border tunnels along the Southwest border.