Weed tube: Police raids 400-yard cross-border drug tunnel from Mexico to California

© John Vizcaino
Mexican and US police have raided a cross-border drug tunnel connecting a restaurant in Mexico to a private estate in Calexico, California, arresting suspected gang members. The confiscated weed is worth millions of dollars, law enforcement report.

US police has busted a drug smuggling cell, members of which purchased a real estate in the residential area of Calexico, located some 120 miles (200km) east of San Diego last April, reportedly solely for the purposes of drug trafficking. The investigation, that has been ongoing for 16 months, ended in seizure of nearly 3,000 pounds of marijuana in two separate raids.  

The drug raid has started with Mexican police entering El Sarape restaurant in Mexicali, Mexico, and capturing two men, Zuleth Yesennia Duarte Medina and A‎drián Guadalupe Armendáriz. Police found a package with dry grass with the characteristics of marijuana and discovered a sophisticated tunnel, equipped with electric car rail system, electricity and lighting. The 415 yards (380 m) long and 32-feet (7m) deep tunnel leads to the 3-feet (0,9m) exit in the front room of a pricy  property in Calexico.

The discovery of a drug tunnel in a seemingly peaceful neighborhood came as a complete surprise to the neighbors.

“Crazy. Just crazy,” said local resident Juan Urrea as cited by KTLA 5. “This is a peaceful neighborhood. You just don’t hear about stuff like this here.”   

US Homeland Security revealed it has been intercepting suspicious conversations at the property since October when the construction works started. The agents were waiting for the smuggling activities to begin so they could detain all the perpetrators.

“This house and tunnel were constructed under the watchful eye of law enforcement,” said Laura Duffy, U.S. Attorney for southern California. “For the builders, the financiers and the operators of these passageways, there is no light at the end of the tunnel,” she stressed.

The records obtained by the investigation showed that the first drug shipment was sent via the tunnel late February. The traffickers used several other locations to store the drugs for further transportation. On March 7, federal agents confiscated some 1,350 pounds with a street value $6 million in one of the warehouses as it was transported via Los Angeles area. 

The alleged house’s owners, Marcia Manuela Duarte-Medina and her mother, Eva Duarte De Medina, were captured in Arizona over accusation of drug smuggling on Tuesday. 

Another two suspects associated with a smugglers ring, Joel Duarte Medina and Manuel Gallegos Jiminez, were arrested on Wednesday, one of them in the Calexico house. In the course of operation agents seized another 1,500 pounds of marijuana.

Over the past years US authorities have discovered dozens of cross-borders tunnels between US and Mexico, many of them equipped with ventilation, rail systems, hydraulic lifts and lightning. Since 2006, 12 underground tunnels were busted in California along the US-Mexico border, but all of them but this one were located in San Diego, where soil structure is more suitable for digging.

A 1,5-km long  and 10 meters deep tunnel helped a notorious Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin `El Chapo' Guzman to escape from heavily guarded Mexican facility in July 2015. The druglord was eventually captured only in January 2016.