Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Another Narcotunnel discovered in Tijuana

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 |

Borderland Beat
An underground drug smuggling tunnel in the midst of construction was found yesterday in the city of Tijuana. Seventeen people were arrested working in the excavation.

According to police authorities, the site has a depth of 10 meters and  370 in depth, but  there was no outlet yet in the United States. It was planned to cross under the border near the Otay Mesa port of entry.
The Mexican Army discovered several suspects who they arrested outside a winery,from there, they continued conducting a review of the property, where they discovered the tunnel of 1.20 by 0.80 meters.
The tunnel has artificial lighting and ventilation, a hydraulic system used to descend to a depth of 10 meters and guide rails similar to those used in mines, equipped with motor.


Also located were several packages of marijuana which equalled about 15 kilos of pot, which with the detainees were turned over to the PGR.


Otay Mesa, Calif.-Federal agents who spend their days in search of the narco tunnels used to smuggle marijuana from Mexico to the United States know the signs of an illegal passage, hidden in the maze of merchandise in warehouses in this border community on the outskirts of Tijuana.
A member of the Army of Mexico walks through a tunnel
discovered in Nogales, Jan. 10.
They know that large tunnels cost about $ 1 million and that their construction can take up to nine months. They know the alleged drug kingpin behind the most sophisticated passages-including one that has a electric rail system - those that have been appearing on the border with alarming frequency.

But a mystery remains constant in the heart of the phenomenon of narcotúneles: the identity of the people who designed and built these feats of engineering.
 
 
While border agents focus on investigating and dismantling the networks that fund and use these tunnels, finding engineers is crucial, federal agents say.

"It resembles winning the lottery of public safety," said Derek Benner, special agent in charge of investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S., in the city of San Diego. "These guys would be a valuable and abundant source of information for us."

Drug traffickers have been digging under the border for two decades. Since 1990, 159 tunnels have been discovered crossing the U.S. from Mexico. Construction soared as increased border security, forcing traffickers to go underground. In the last four years, the construction of illegal tunnels increased by 80%, according to a federal report 2012.

The tunnels are mainly used to smuggle marijuana into the U.S., but Homeland Security officials say the passages U.S. are "a significant security threat" because they could easily also be used to smuggle weapons or troops across the border. Many located in Arizona and California, are rudimentary holes, or use existing drainage systems across the border.

The most sophisticated tunnels tend to sprout in Otay Mesa, a bustling border town that is part of San Diego, where clay in the soil allows longer and deeper passages and the constant presence of port shipments helps conceal wineries outputs. The tunnels are often more than 300 meters long, reinforced concrete and wood,  equipped with ventilation systems, telephones, lighting and, in one case, an electric rail system capable of propelling tons of marijuana below the border about 30 kilometers per hour.

The tunnels usually start in a house in Mexico, running under the border fence and often found to be in a warehouse district that is used to store legal border trade products. Agents usually discover them when they detect abnormal activity in the warehouses on the U.S. side, as night shifts, or parked rigs that seem to never move.

In 2009, authorities discovered a tunnel under the false floor of a bathroom built on a hydraulic lift to descend 27 meters underground. "It was an engineering marvel," said Jerry Conlin, a Border Patrol agent in the U.S., who said the tunnel had ventilation, lighting and telephone. After a tunnel is discovered, federal agents fill it with high-strength concrete to seal said.

Federal agents believe that architects come from  Durango, a mining  state in northern Mexico and there is a small group of trusted engineers, who are highly valued and protected by drug traffickers who hire them, they've been responsible for designing and overseeing the construction of tunnels.


Authorities say they only know of an architect who was arrested and sentenced in U.S.: Felipe de Jesus Corona-Verbera, who built one of the first sophisticated tunnels that was discovered at the border, a passage of 60 meters from Agua Prieta, north of Mexico to Arizona, and was used to transport cocaine. It was found in 1990 and Corona-Verbera eluded authorities for more than a decade until he was arrested in 2003. Three years later he was sentenced to 18 years in prison, according to federal records, and is currently being held near Tucson, Arizona.
 
"If you have an engineer who is building tunnels very good, protect that asset," said Tim Durst, assistant special agent from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who leads a team focused on tunnels. "It's the most important thing."


In the past two years, San Diego agents seized 100 tonnes of marijuana with an estimated value of $ 60 million, several tunnels. During this period, the authorities have obtained 20 convictions related to the tunnels on the border of San Diego, said Sherri Walker Hobson, the assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of California.

Prosecutors in San Diego are asking the Mexican government to extradite Jose Sanchez Villalobos, after a jury charged him with 13 counts of drug trafficking and the alleged financing of the construction of two of the longest tunnels in the border, including one called the tunnel Marconi. Prosecutors say Sanchez Villalobos was a member of the leadership of the Sinaloa cartel.His lawyer, Guadalupe Valencia said that Sanchez Villalobos denies the charges and is fighting extradition.
 
Despite successful raids, investigators in this city and in Mexico have not been able to find engineers. Investigators believe they know the identity of one of them, Durst says, "but we have come up against several obstacles in locating that person."
 
Authorities are perplexed about how engineers manage to be so precise in the construction of a tunnel to come out at exactly the right point in the U.S. Durst believes that use compasses to help guide their work, but are very intrigued how they manage without a global positioning device, it would not work underground.

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13 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

What i like about you is you aren't scared of the lengthy post loaded with links. This is even restrained compared to some of yous that have been nearly as long as this narco tunnel. Good post. Looks like you took those photos with a crappy phone, Havana!

Anonymous said...

Hey Havana,
Nice to see you back. You've been missed

Anonymous said...

Hey Havana! Good one! Nice to see your bi- line

Anonymous said...

http://narcomexicodrugsgangs.blogspot.com/2013/02/fotos-de-los-zetas-estructura-criminal.html?m=1

Anonymous said...

Cockroaches know their way around holes very good , so why ask how they do it !!!

Anonymous said...

JAGL tunnel....
atte..ThinkTank 28.7 NarcoVision

Anonymous said...

this is just a waste of time, money, and lives. so who cares if marijuana or some coke gets through the border in a tunnel. what are the enforcement efforts for? so it can't be sold to people who want it and enjoy it? We are so stupid as a society.

Anonymous said...

Isn't there ways to detect these tunnels from drones?

Anonymous said...

Good job havana keep the stories coming to make up for your absence .

Anonymous said...

February 6, 2013 at 8:53 PM
"so who cares if marijuana or some coke gets through the border in a tunnel.We are so stupid as a society"
I say old boy,that's common sense,we don't want none of that round here.And,,,we are financing international terrorism and major threats to the civilized world,didn't you know that?I saw it on the TV,and i believe everything my government tells me,,,,

Anonymous said...

I know the border is long and man power is short but I agree with all the different types of technology, tunnels should not be a problem. String up those excavators and make them talk. El Chapo again. Gracias por l911 Havana

Early Strength Concrete said...

The main phenomenon of tunnel discovering has been established here by filling the federal agent with Early Strength Concrete which become the necessary establishment in mining process..

Anonymous said...

Its very hard to find tunnels, you need ground-penetrating radar, or seismic sensors. Both need to be on the ground, looking down. Can't be done from the air. Radar doesn't look through rock very well.

Tunnels are usually found by old fashioned police work - informants, or by stake outs and observing people and vehicles coming and going.

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