A San Diego task force investigation leads to charges against 6 individuals, discovery of sophisticated cross-border tunnel
SAN DIEGO – A Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Costa Pacifico Money Laundering Task Force investigation resulted in the discovery of a sophisticated cross-border tunnel and charges against six people for conspiring to distribute 1,762 pounds of cocaine.
The subterranean passageway, stretching from Tijuana, Mexico to a warehouse in Otay Mesa, California just east of the port of entry, is estimated to be about 1,744 feet long, 61 feet deep and 4-feet in diameter, with reinforced walls, a rail system, electricity, and a ventilation system.
The defendants include Mario Jaramillo of Huntington Beach; Adrian Enriquez of Perris, Calif.; Juan Cruz of San Ysidro; and Vanessa Ramirez, Luz de Luna Olmos and Manuel Perez of San Diego. All are charged with cocaine trafficking; Olmos and Ramirez are also charged with methamphetamine and heroin trafficking. In addition to the 1,762 pounds of cocaine, authorities seized 164 pounds of methamphetamine and 3.5 pounds of heroin.
The tunnel was discovered late Thursday night, by task force agents conducting surveillance on a National City, California residence that was previously used as a stash house in a cocaine smuggling event on March 2. That event had resulted in the arrest of one person and the seizure of 28 kilograms of cocaine.
According to the federal complaint, at about 11:45 a.m., officials observed as Olmos and Ramirez drove away from that National City residence in a silver Nissan Frontier pickup truck to Harbor Freight Tools store in Chula Vista, California, where they retrieved large cardboard boxes from a dumpster and put them into the pickup truck.
The women then entered the Harbor Freight Tools store and purchased wheeled carts that are typically used to move heavy items, the complaint said. They later returned to the residence in the pickup truck and removed the boxes from the back of the pick-up bed and carried them inside the residence. At about 1:20 p.m., Olmos left the residence and drove to a Walmart store, where she purchased additional cardboard boxes and transported them back to the residence.
At approximately 2:30 p.m., Ramirez drove the pickup away from the residence to a warehouse located at 9986 Via De La Amistad, Unit A, in San Diego. The warehouse is approximately 300 feet north of the U.S.-Mexico border fence.
Ramirez drove the pickup into the bay of the warehouse and the roll-up door was shut immediately after. At approximately 4:40 p.m., the warehouse door opened. Ramirez exited the warehouse in the pickup and drove back to the residence with law enforcement conducting surveillance.
In the hours that followed, law enforcement officials saw five other cars come and go from either the residence, the warehouse or both. Those vehicles were ultimately stopped by law enforcement, drugs were seized from the vehicles and the residence, and defendants associated with the cars and or residence were arrested.
Upon searching the warehouse, agents uncovered the sophisticated cross-border tunnel exit point carved out of the cement floor.
“There is no more light at the end of this narco-tunnel,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “We will take down every subterranean smuggling route we find to keep illicit drugs from reaching our streets and destroying our families and communities.”
Grossman thanked the prosecution team, HSI San Diego Costa Pacifico Money Laundering Task Force, and its partners from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Customs and Border Protection for their excellent work on this case. “This tunnel was discovered because of the patience and tenacity of federal agents who are passionate about protecting their communities from the scourge of drug addiction and related violence.”
There have been 90 subterranean passages discovered in the Southern District of California since 1993. Of those, 27 were considered sophisticated. The last tunnel discovered in the Southern District of California was in March 2020.
The defendants were arraigned May 16 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Jill Burkhardt.
The discovery of the tunnel resulted from an ongoing investigation by members of the San Diego Costa Pacifico Money Laundering Task Force, which includes HSI, San Diego Sheriff’s Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs and Border Protection, and the United States Attorney’s Office.
HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.