15 tons of pot found in crossborder tunnel

By John
Langeler FOX 5 San Diego Reporter

8:21 a.m.
PST, November
17, 2011

SAN DIEGO — Federal authorities uncovered a “sophisticated” cross-border
drug-smuggling tunnel connecting warehouses in Tijuana and Otay Mesa and seized
about 15 tons of marijuana stashed in the warehouses, officials announced
Wednesday.

Members of the multi-agency San Diego Tunnel Task Force found the underground
passageway on Tuesday evening after executing a federal search warrant at a
warehouse at 8851 Kearns Street, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement. Inside, agents found the entrance to a 4-by-3-foot passageway that
dropped more than 20 feet and ran about 400 yards to another warehouse in
Tijuana.

The tunnel was equipped with structural supports, electricity and
ventilation.

Members of the Tunnel Task Force identified the warehouse after conducting
surveillance in the area, officials said.

The property’s real estate agent told Fox 5 the building has two tenants.  He
said the tunnel was found in the space rented by a Mexican housewares company
that started leasing the building four months ago.  The lessee paid the rent,
but according to the agent, never moved in.

City tax records show a company called “Marble and More Imports” recieved its
license in August.  Calls to the license owner were not returned.  He was not
arrested and it’s not clear what, if any involvement there is.

Tuesday afternoon, police stopped a cargo truck after it left the warehouse
and found 3 tons of marijuana inside packed in boxes. They arrested the truck
driver and a passenger.

When agents searched the warehouse, they found another 6.5 tons of marijuana.
They contacted Mexican police, who searched the warehouse in Tijuana and found
another 5 or 5 tons of marijuana, authorities said.

Wednesday morning, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement raided a home in
Lakeside connected to the drug tunnel.  Two more people were arrested.  More
than 200 marijuana plants were seized along with a loaded handgun and signs of
cockfighting.

Law enforcement believes the truck stopped on Tuesday was on its way to the
Lakeside address.

This is the third major cross-border tunnel found this year, according to
Special Agent William Sherman of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Federal
authorities have found more than 75 cross-border smuggling tunnels in the last
four years, with most of them in California and Arizona.

“The seizure of marijuana couple with the loss of yet another tunnel will
deal a heavy blow to those responsible for constructing this tunnel,” Sherman
said.