DEA reports that agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) along with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Border Patrol (USBP), Yuma County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) and Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) executed a search warrant Saturday morning at a business used to conceal the U.S. entrance to a tunnel that stretched 240 yards underground to an ice plant across the border in Mexico.
“The recent discovery of this sophisticated drug smuggling tunnel is yet another reminder of how desperate these criminal organizations are and the extent they will go to further their drug dealing operations and endanger the security of our citizens,” said Doug Coleman, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Phoenix Field Division. “The DEA continues to work with our counterparts nationally and internationally to bring to justice these drug trafficking organizations as well as to block their smuggling routes into this country.”
Inside a one-story non-descript building at 508 Archibald Street in San Luis, agents discovered the tunnel’s entrance in a storage room hidden beneath a large water tank. From the floor, the tunnel plunged more than 55 feet into the ground. Its walls stand more than 6 feet high. The shaft of the passageway measures 48 inches wide at the San Luis entrance. The tunnel is equipped with lighting and a ventilation system. The tunnel is reinforced with 4 x 6 beams every few feet along with plywood for the walls, ceiling and floor.
When agents entered the San Luis business, it was empty and largely unfurnished. Found on the floor next to the tunnel entrance were numerous 55 gallon drums filled with dirt and soil excavated from the vertical shaft as well as large plywood boxes believed to be used to cover the pallets of drums for later removal from the location. As DEA agents searched the business, the Mexican Military made entry into the ice plant business across the border in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, where they located the tunnel’s other entrance. Mexican authorities found numerous bags of dirt stacked to the ceiling in the room where the tunnel’s entryway was located.
Since January 2012, DEA agents began conducting surveillance on the business after observing possible suspicious activity that indicated the site was being used as a potential stash location. On July 6, 2012, agents learned that DPS had stopped a black Ford F-150 pick-up on Highway 95 on a traffic violation. Inside the bed of the truck, DPS officers discovered 39 pounds of methamphetamine. Information gleaned from the stop led the vehicle back to the business location in San Luis, AZ.
Based upon the results of the vehicle stop coupled with DEA’s active investigation, agents obtained a search warrant to enter the business location.
So far, three suspects have been taken into custody in connection with the tunnel.
DEA agents are coordinating the ongoing investigation into the tunnel. Law enforcement officials from Mexico are also aiding in the investigation.
The San Luis passageway is the only known completed and fully operational smuggling tunnel ever uncovered in the Yuma, Arizona area. In the past 10 years, 89 cross-border tunnels have been discovered in Arizona and 50 in California.