Baja California have not had a tunnel built as good as this one.
Of the more than 80 tunnels found since 2011, the one with the expensive freight elevator hidden behind a closet door with a security gate, that ends with a hole in the ground, a few meters from the Otay Mesa border crossing, is the one that caught the attention of US authorities.
"There is no resemblance to others that we have seen before in which architects and engineers work to hide the tunnel exit, either within a warehouse or a residence," said Southern California Attorney General, Laura Duffy.
The underground tunnel was found on April 16 and displayed on April 20 on the US side. It has a length of over 750 meters and was carved in the form of shimmy.
Abraham Perez, special agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), said the exit door "is something that we have not seen in the cartel tunnels that we have investigated".
|Prosecutor Laura Duffy looks at "tunnel hole"|
However, the construction bears a striking resemblance to the tunnel that Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman used to escaped from a home in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, to the sewer system before being arrested by federal forces, on January 8, 2016.
Both in the way the entry was hidden behind a false wooden door in a closet in the bedroom of the apartment, and the installation of a metal gate with a safety device.
While in other constructions hydraulic platforms have been found, never an industrial cargo elevator for up to nine people. The costs of a device of this type in Mexico, is ranging between $65,000 and $95,000 pesos, according to experts consulted by ZETA.
The tunnel and the finding of a ton of cocaine, worth 22 million dollars, demonstrated "the confidence of the cartel to move cocaine coming from Colombia and Peru", said the DEA agent, Abraham Perez.
Typically, cross-border tunnels are used to smuggle marijuana, as the smell and the volume make it difficult to transport in vehicles crossing the border and U.S customs.
"Cocaine is not something you often see in a tunnel," Duffy said, adding that in the past they had found up to ten kilos of the drug in a narcotúnel.
Although it had ventilation and lighting system, the US official explained that the sophistication of the tunnel decreased as it went to the American side of the border.
The edges were not properly shored up with wood and the narrowness of the tunnel, made the passage a little difficult.
On the American side, the tunnel was almost straight down three meters to a small break area and continued down another 14 meters. The starting point is located just on the opposite corner of a warehouse located at Avenida Marconi Drive, where some years ago a tunnel was also found.
Although US authorities have not yet officially revealed what organization the narcotúnel belongs too, billed as the most extensive and complex discovered on the border between California and Mexico, the building has the characteristics of the Sinaloa Cartel.
Not only because of the similarities to the one found in the hideout of "El Chapo" but because in recent years, the Baja California border has been penetrated beneath the earth by the Sinaloa Cartel, mainly, as well as the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (CJNG).
State Secretary of Public Security, Daniel de la Rosa Anaya said: "One of the groups that has been an expert or is constantly detected in narcotúneles, has been the criminal group of Sinaloa, in our investigations we have that group with some participation of another group from Jalisco. "
|Packages of marijuana and cocaine smuggled through the tunnel, inside a truck|
To Logan Heights
The tunnel begins at a house in Colonia Nueva Tijuana, and enter the U.S. territory diagonally to the east of the Otay border crossing, connecting to a property located in the industrial area of Otay Mesa.
The discovery and dismantling operation took place in the United States. Although federal authorities reported that the investigation began seven months ago, from April 12 police began to document evidence that led to the arrest of six people.
Information provided to ZETA indicates that the tunnel had been operating for several months, and it is further explained why in a single day, federal agents confiscated a ton of cocaine and five tons of marijuana while being transferred from the tunnel exit to the Logan Neighborhood in San Diego, California.
The final destination of the drug, according to DEA agent Pérez, was Los Angeles, California and East of the United States, as is the route followed by the cartels that use the border as an access point.
For years, Barrio Logan was considered the exclusive territory of the Arellano Felix Cartel (CAF). There they would recruit narco traffickers and hitmen for the criminal world in Tijuana, but for some moths, the US authorities have found drug houses and hideouts for criminals related to the Sinaloa Cartel.
According to reports from the Department of Homeland Security (HSI), at 9:55 am on Tuesday, April 12 they began to monitor a parked white loaded truck with California plates in the Otay Mesa property.
Outside, the property there was a sign announcing the purchase of wooden pallets and boards. That was one of the reasons that the Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security began to monitor the area.
Attorney General Duffy said the proceeds from the sale and purchase of wood did not match the cost of the rent. Agent Perez added that the exit point of the passageway, hidden under a giant dump and thousands of pallets, "did not represented a lot of money compared to the industrial trailer they had in there. They most be very efficient because they don't have to many people, "he said about the few employees who allegedly worked in the place.
The next day, on April 13 in the afternoon, the officers noticed how two people inside the premises covered the trash pile with a tarp, while a forklift was moving wood pallets.
Then a white truck arrive to pick up the trash and was moved to a parking lot located on Imperial Avenue, near 30th Street in Barrio Logan. There the content was unloaded.
A second truck arrived and parked next to the rubble left by the first truck. Meanwhile, a man walked and looked out through the gate of the place, nervously.
Two days later, on April 15, a tarp had been placed over the space between the second truck and the debris in the parking lot. There Juan Carlos Chavez Fabian, Alejandro Gómez Báez and Osmel Martinez were identified.
The second truck left the place and took to the streets, followed not just by a Lexus escort, but also by the San Diego Sheriffs.
When the officers noticed that the back door was open, they indicated to the driver, Fabian Chavez, to stop the truck.
The man admitted to police about not having a California driver's license and authorized the search of the truck. Police found one ton 18 kilograms of cocaine and five tons 14 kilograms of marijuana.
|PGR banner in pieces|
As this was happening, the driver of the Lexus, Alejandro Gómez Báez and his passenger Osmel Martinez jump off the car to flee but were arrested. In their vehicle, officers found package with one kilogram of marijuana.
"The marks on the blocks of cocaine found in the truck matched the block found in the Lexus".
These three men are accused of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana, a federal crime that reaches a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment.
On March 18 they were presented before Judge Barbara L. Major, who set a preliminary hearing for Thursday April 28. The three men ask for an interpreter and Gómez Báez presented their financial statement to the court on April 20.
ONE OF DETAINEES, IS AN EX TOW TRUCK DEALER IN TIJUANA
The other three men were arrested in Otay Mesa where the hiding underground passageway exit was.
Cruz Armando Parra Corrales, who until 2013 was an authorized tow truck dealer in the City of Tijuana.
According to " Vehicle Public Services", Corrales Parra is listed as the administrator and dealer of Tow Trucks Zabad, residing at Avenida Internacional number 44 in the former Ejido Tampico.
The concession was authorized on September 30, 2003 and expired on September 30, 2008, but he had obtained an extension.
Months before the end of the administration of former Mayor Carlos Bustamante, Sindicatura reported that nearly 2,000 vehicles had not been registered in the impound system of the receivership, through which users can locate their vehicle if it was towed.
One of the tow trucks that had failed to comply with the process, was a Zabad tow truck . In fact, on August 2013, the company notified Sindicatura that they were renouncing to the concession for the lack of units and lack of storage capacity.
However, Armando Parra Cruz Corrales also appears in the tow truck registration of Playas de Rosarito, updated in the second quarter of 2015, under concession number RTO-PT-G-256.
In addition, on March 16, 2006, Parra Corrales was registered with the Public Registry of Property and Commerce of Baja California as a partner and manager of Parra Recycling.
The certificate has a duration of 99 years and started with a capital of 50 thousand pesos, of which Armando Parra Cruz Corrales invested 20 thousand pesos.
Alongside Martiniano Garcia Sedano and Alejandro Bravo, Parra Corrales faces charges of conspiracy to import cocaine and marijuana, plus conspiracy to use a border tunnel.
|The tunnel exit was hidden among trash and pallets|
The three men and a fourth unidentified, were observed in the wooden pallet yard on the 12 and 13 of April, while the white truck was loaded. They then helped to hide the tunnel exit with a tarp, operated the forklift and look into the tunnel.
It was on April 16 when officers entered the premises both in Otay Mesa and the parking lot in Barrio Logan, with a search warrant.
Within the tunnel they found 68 bales of marijuana weighing 744.6 kilograms, and in the parking lot, they found 650 kilograms of the same drug.
About the value of the more than five tons sized, federal authorities have said to be just over $4 million, giving a total of 26 million dollars if you add the value of the cocaine.
The criminal trial of the three men will be about the same time as the other three detainees, on the same dates and hearings.
The prosecutor stated that from this six people, two are Cuban refugees, two are Mexicans with a green card living in the US, one more is a Mexican national, and another is a US citizen.
ON THE TIJUANA SIDE ...
The Narco Tunnel Builders and operators chose the property without walls or buildings to hide the exit, a kind of burrow in the United States side.
Giving little suspicion that what the workers were doing was moving tons of cocaine and marijuana in broad daylight," said Laura Duffy.
However, on the Mexican side, the narcotúnel began in the most ostentatious house on Diego Rivera street in colonia Nueva Tijuana. On unpaved roads with large potholes and facing a public school, is the residence number 302.
With a plaque on behalf of "Fimbres Estrada Family", the building 12 by 30 meters was acquired two years ago by a couple with children. It has a garage on the main street and the entrance gate to the house is on Doctor Atl street.
The two-story residence contrasts with the rest of the houses of a single story, with grocery stores and other businesses like mechanic shops.
Neighbors reported that the family was regularly visited by a younger man, who sometimes slept over. About the husband, they explained, that he was driving a truck, he will also wear a construction helmet and an orange vest.
|Parking lot at the Barrio Logan to where the drug was taken|
Unlike the US, where the operation began since April 12, Mexican authorities began searching for the tunnel until the afternoon of April 19. Before getting to the right address, elements of the Federal Police entered and search the home located at the front of the house with the tunnel.
Jaime Romero showed the damage to the entrance gate of his house, which was forced by police that afternoon. Since he was not there, the housing alarm system alerted an employee of the security company they went to the house, but Federal Police agents prevented him from entering the house.
When the retired man arrived to his house, federal agents explained to him that it had been a mistake and that they would pay for the damages.
At the moment, Mr. Romero resin filled the gaps left at the top of the door and on the side.
According to estimates by the US Attorney General Laura Duffy, the tunnel was built over a period not exceeding one year and by the details found, it is likely that they did not used heavy machinery.
MEXICO CITY AGENTS, RAIDED THE HOUSE
Shortly before nine o'clock, more than 20 members of the Federal Police entered the house where the tunnel begins. Some toys and a pool for children remained in the main courtyard.
After entering the residence, police officers spent most of the two hours of the raid in the garage, which has an entrance from the courtyard. The house is just 400 meters away from the line that separates Mexico from the United States.
Two Federal Police units were guarding the area as a swat meet on wheels was installed on the front and around the property. With yellow plastic tape police restricted pedestrian and vehicular crossing in front of the house.
With ropes, industrial equipment, bags and toolboxes, the federal agency staff left the building at 10:45 am. No drug packages were observed.
The preliminary investigation PGR / SEIDO / UEITA / 038/2012, corresponding to the Specialized Investigation of Terrorism, Arms Stockpiling and Trafficking (UEITA) of the Deputy Attorney Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime (SEIDO) Unit will be integrated.
At the time when one of the agents tried to place the police banner that prevents the access to the house accrediting the seizure of property, it broke into several pieces, so five elements helped to glue with gray tape.
After several minutes, the Attorney General's Office Seal (PGR), whose violation is a crime-, with folio number A-003536, was ready at the top of the fence.
Federal authorities in Tijuana reported that they didn't participated in the operational, location and dismantling. On the US side, sources told ZETA that PGR and Federal Police personal was sent from Mexico City to the border city for this operation.
The level of complexity of the narcotúnel, the quantity and value of drugs seized in the United States and the months that operated for trafficking cocaine and marijuana, makes this tunnel one of the most fruitful for drug trafficking in the last years.