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ICE HSI shuts down Arizona smuggling tunnel

Nogales tunnel used for smuggling
Nogales tunnel used for smuggling

NOGALES, Ariz. - An active drug smuggling tunnel was shut down in Nogales, Ariz., Tuesday following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Agents identified the tunnel after seizing more than 2,600 pounds of marijuana from three suspected drug smugglers.

Agents conducting surveillance around the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry observed a white box truck with Arizona license plates parked near the Morley Pedestrian Gate. After noticing suspicious activity, agents followed the truck when it departed the area, and with assistance from the Nogales Police Department conducted a traffic stop. Inside the truck, agents discovered 2,621 pounds of marijuana. Through further investigation, they learned that the marijuana was smuggled into the truck through a drug tunnel located underneath the pavement at the initial parking spot. HSI agents then contacted the Nogales Border Patrol and Mexico's Secretaria de Seguridad de Publica (SSP) to assist with locating the tunnel.

"The discovery of this latest tunnel was based on the strong cooperation between ICE HSI, the Border Patrol, the Nogales PD and Mexico's SSP," said Kevin Kelly, assistant special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Nogales. "We will continue to work together to thwart drug smuggling into the United States."

The tunnel is approximately 90 feet long, 3 feet wide and 3 feet tall. Approximately 45 feet of the tunnel is within the United States with an additional 45 feet in Mexico. The tunnel is 4.5 feet below street level. The exit within the United States was cut with a bore-type saw and was 10 inches in diameter. The illicit tunnel was plugged with a cylinder shaped piece of concrete held in place with a large floor jack from within. The tunnel contained shoring with two-by-fours and plywood. There was ventilation tubing, tools and electrical cord located within the illicit tunnel.

Three individuals found travelling in the vehicle are facing federal drug charges. Anthony Maytorena, 19, a U.S. citizen from Nogales, Sonora; Jorge Vargas Ruiz, 18, from Nogales, Ariz.; and a juvenile Mexican citizen had their initial appearance Wednesday at the federal court in Tucson, Ariz.

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