Drug tunnel from Tijuana to San Diego linked to nationwide alleged drug trafficking scheme

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The illicit drugs that flood Chicago from Mexico come in trucks, on trains, planes and hidden behind secret doors of SUVs.

Now, federal authorities have found an apparent starting point under the border in Southern California. About 2,100 miles from Chicago near San Diego, federal agents discovered a well-built tunnel spanning south of the border. The other end was in Tijuana, Mexico.

"It's estimated to be about 1,744 feet long, 61 feet deep, with a diameter of about 4 feet at its widest point," said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Randy Grossman. "It has reinforced walls, a rail system and electricity for ventilation."

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Homeland Security Investigations identified the tunnel 300 feet north of the border during a stakeout of a suspected cocaine stash house.

"We allege that the defendants were driving into the garage and loading or dropping off cardboard boxes full of drugs to further the movement or distribution of drugs throughout the united states," said Grossman.

Both San Diego and Chicago are on the fed's map of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. Southern California is highlighted because of its proximity to Mexican cartel supply lines, and Chicago for its strategic location in the middle of the nation.

Chicago's geography makes it a transit and shipping hub for many things, including illegal drugs, according to Chicago DEA chief Bob Bell.

"This is a distribution hub for legitimate commerce and for unfortunately, illegitimate commerce. So a lot of drugs come directly from Mexico to Chicago and are dispersed across the Midwest," Bell told the I-Team.

Late last year, 29 people were charged in a separate drug and money laundering operation between San Diego, Chicago and other U.S. cities, allegedly connected to the two major cartels that control Chicago streets drugs, according to law enforcement agents.

While the U.S. Attorney in San Diego said that "there is no light at the end of this narco-tunnel" when announcing charges related to the scheme, he pledges to work with the many law enforcement agencies targeting illicit drugs from Mexico to locate and shutdown their operations.
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