Drug Smuggling Tunnel Found After $3 Million Pot Bust on Border

Drug smuggling tunnel on Mexico border, Naco, Arizona
Photo: U.S. Customs & Border Protection

Federal agents discovered an underground tunnel crossing the border into Mexico from Naco, Arizona on Tuesday as part of an investigation after a traffic stop that yielded over two tons of marijuana, with a value of approximately $3 million.

According to a press release by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) got a tip about a large shipment of marijuana being moved. The HSI officers contacted the local Bisbee, Arizona Police Department (BPD), and BPD pulled over a box truck at about 6:30 pm on the outskirts of the city.

A Tucson Sector Border Patrol canine team assisted BPD in the traffic stop, and their dogs alerted to the rear of the truck. When the truck was searched, more than 4,700 pounds of marijuana was found, in stacked bundles. The driver of the box truck was arrested, but authorities had not yet released his name.

Bisbee Police Staff Sergeant Robert Coronado thanked HSI and the Border Patrol for their assistance, saying, “The Bisbee Police Department supports the efforts of its local officers and appreciates the continued support of the U.S. Border Patrol and HSI, which provide assistance on a regular basis.”

Other evidence uncovered by BPD and the Border Patrol led to a warrant being issued to search a residence in nearby Naco, Arizona, which is about 10 miles south of Bisbee and directly on the border with Mexico.

HSI and Border Patrol agents arrived at the Naco residence shortly before dawn on Tuesday and discovered the entrance to a tunnel in a small shed at the edge of the property. A suspect at the residence was also arrested and detained.

Border Patrol’s specially trained tunnel team examined the tunnel, which was highly sophisticated. Investigators found a cement shaft at the entrance, equipped with a hydraulic lift. The corridor to the tunnel on the U.S. side is large enough for an adult to stand upright and is shored-up with wooden supports.

Concerns about air quality in the tunnel stopped investigators from continuing through the tunnel’s full length, but they notified authorities in Mexico, who are working to ascertain where the Mexican entrance to the tunnel is located.

“With this discovery we’ve dealt another significant blow to the Mexican drug cartels and proven yet again that going underground is not a workaround to evade law enforcement,” said Matthew Allen, special agent in charge of HSI Arizona. “Last night’s chain of events is also a testament to the outstanding unity of effort by federal and local investigators in Arizona who are committed to combatting this threat.”

“When partnered law enforcement agencies come together, the odds are greatly increased that criminal organizations will have less success,” said Tucson Sector Chief Patrol Agent Manuel Padilla Jr. “Not only is it a win-win situation for law enforcement partners, we also make the communities in which we live and serve safer.”

“Cross-border tunnels continue to be a tried-and-true smuggling method for Mexican drug cartels that U.S. authorities just can’t seem to make a dent in,” said Sylvia Longmire, Breitbart Texas’ border security expert and contributing editor. “They’re notoriously difficult to detect, with as many as half of them found through anonymous tips rather than tunnel detection technology or human sources. Federal agencies are saying this discovery is a significant blow to the cartels, but in truth, there are likely many more tunnels in southern Arizona and California we don’t know about, and cartels are well-funded enough to just begin construction on another one to replace this one.”

According to CBP, U.S. authorities have found and dismantled more than 80 cross-border smuggling tunnels. Breitbart Texas previously reported on tunnels found in Nogales, Arizona, San Diego California, and El Paso, Texas. In addition to smuggling drugs, the tunnels are also often used for human trafficking.

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.


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