SAN DIEGO — A Chula Vista man convicted of serving as the "transportation manager" for the drug trafficking organization responsible for a highly sophisticated cross-border tunnel that yielded a 30-ton marijuana seizure has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Fernando Javier Alarid, 40, appeared Monday before U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns. Alarid was among six individuals arrested in connection with the ensuing investigation by members of the multi-agency San Diego Tunnel Task Force, headed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The arrests followed the discovery of an underground passageway Nov. 2, 2010, that connected warehouses in an Otay Mesa industrial park and Tijuana, Mexico. At the time, the 30-ton marijuana seizure was among the largest in U.S. history. Investigators estimate the street value of the seized narcotics at more than $40 million.
In June 2011, a jury found Alarid and one of his co-defendants guilty following a four-day trial of all of the charges lodged against them. Those charges included conspiracy to distribute marijuana, conspiracy to import marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Alarid's co-defendant, Pablo Anzaldo-Contreras, 33, of El Monte, is currently serving a nearly 20-year sentence imposed by Judge Burns late last year.
At Monday's sentencing, Judge Burns imposed a four-level upward adjustment given Alarid's oversight of the crew responsible for transporting the marijuana from the Otay Mesa industrial park to a storage facility in the Los Angeles area. According to testimony presented at his trial, Alarid recruited the drug transportation team, purchased the truck and tractor used to transport marijuana loads, and bought the forklift and thousands of boxes used for moving the marijuana from the tunnel into the warehouse.
Also arrested during the tunnel investigation was Carlos Cunningham, 29, who drove a tractor-trailer for the organization. Cunningham is currently serving a 260-month prison term.
U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy praised members of the San Diego Tunnel Task Force for the work on the case – including HSI, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the other local agencies – noting that the coordinated effort culminated with the prosecution of several members of the transportation team.