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Agents Provide Details of Elaborate Drug Tunnel in Otay Mesa

Agents from the DEA and Border Patrol released more details about the cross-border drug tunnel discovered on Tuesday. Initial reports had described the tunnel as elaborate, new details revealed today show just how elaborate it was.

Electric rail cars ran the length of the 600-yard tunnel, special agent Derek Brenner of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told the Associated Press. In addition to the railway, smugglers used a hydraulic lift, descended down a staircase to the tunnel which had wood floors from one end to the other.

The bust, said Brenner, was one of the largest in history, with agents seizing an estimated 32 tons of marijuana, 17 of which was found inside a warehouse in Otay Mesa.

"This is an incredibly efficient tunnel designed to move a lot of narcotics," Benner told The Associated Press.

Added William Sherman, the DEA agent San Diego who heads up the San Diego office: "I would say it's probably as sophisticated as any we've ever seen."

It is the second elaborate tunnel found in the last two weeks, both linking warehouses near the Tijuana Airport to warehouses in Otay Mesa. In all approximately 49 tons of weed was discovered in the two tunnels.

*picture from DEA website of November 16 bust

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Agents from the DEA and Border Patrol released more details about the cross-border drug tunnel discovered on Tuesday. Initial reports had described the tunnel as elaborate, new details revealed today show just how elaborate it was.

Electric rail cars ran the length of the 600-yard tunnel, special agent Derek Brenner of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told the Associated Press. In addition to the railway, smugglers used a hydraulic lift, descended down a staircase to the tunnel which had wood floors from one end to the other.

The bust, said Brenner, was one of the largest in history, with agents seizing an estimated 32 tons of marijuana, 17 of which was found inside a warehouse in Otay Mesa.

"This is an incredibly efficient tunnel designed to move a lot of narcotics," Benner told The Associated Press.

Added William Sherman, the DEA agent San Diego who heads up the San Diego office: "I would say it's probably as sophisticated as any we've ever seen."

It is the second elaborate tunnel found in the last two weeks, both linking warehouses near the Tijuana Airport to warehouses in Otay Mesa. In all approximately 49 tons of weed was discovered in the two tunnels.

*picture from DEA website of November 16 bust

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Upon the discovery of such tunnels, the local reps of ICE or Border Patrol or DEA pat themselves on the back. Just two weeks ago when the previous tunnel was detected, one of them spouted off with some comments that insinuated that they were catching all these efforts as they came along. And I remember thinking that there were doubtless more tunnels that they didn't know about.

This one involved the removal of many, many truckloads of soil. Reports so far say little about what was found on the Mexican side of the line. Perhaps the building was large enough that the diggers just filled the building with the dirt they removed. Or maybe anyone who noticed the removal of soil just ignored it, as so many other things are ignored in that country.

At first notice, you might wonder why these tunnels are being dug on Otay Mesa and not elsewhere. The answer is obvious that the area is filled with activity and large trucks and plenty of round-the-clock noise. Digging such a tunnel in, say, the Tierra del Sol area near Boulevard would attract attention because of its normally sleepy rural ambiance.

Just digging a tunnel of such length was a major undertaking, rivaling some of the underground work done at serious gold, silver and copper mines. It took a while to do all that work, and putting in hydraulic lifts (elevators) meant that the builder had near-limitless resources to put into the project.

Is there a chance that there is an even bigger, longer and deeper tunnel somewhere in that area? One that has escaped detection? Time will tell.

Dec. 1, 2011

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