December 1, 2011 / 12:41 AM / 8 years ago

San Diego drug tunnel stands out for sophistication

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A drug smuggling tunnel that has been uncovered between San Diego and Tijuana stands out for its sophistication, with electrical rail cars and reinforced walls, officials said on Wednesday.

The tunnel, which connected a warehouse in San Diego to another in Tijuana, is the fourth major illicit passageway found between the United States and Mexico this month.

“This is the most elaborate and sophisticated tunnel that has ever been discovered along the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Derek Benner, special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego.

Officials said the tunnel had a hydraulically-controlled steel door, an elevator, electric rail cars on tracks, lighting, reinforced walls and wooden floors.

Investigators found the tunnel, which measures 612 yards, on Tuesday after a six-month investigation, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Authorities seized over 32 tons of marijuana worth $65 million and arrested six people in connection with the smuggling scheme, officials said.

They said the spate of tunnel discoveries in November came as drug smugglers were seeking to move large quantities of marijuana into the United States, with the close of the harvest season for the illicit plant.

The latest passageway discovery marks the seventh large-scale drug smuggling tunnel discovered in the San Diego area since 2006, according to ICE. Federal authorities have detected more than 75 cross-border smuggling tunnels across the United States in the last four years, the agency said.

“We invite the cartels to continue in their futile efforts to smuggle marijuana into the U.S.,” Benner said.

Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Cynthia Johnston

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