Mexican Cartel Tunnel Found Leading into Former Arizona KFC Restaurant

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Yuma Sector CBP

A cross-border narco-tunnel leading into a shuttered Arizona KFC restaurant was discovered earlier this month by Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Border Patrol.

The tunnel was discovered after an August 13 traffic stop conducted by the San Luis Police Department involving an individual later identified as Ivan Lopez, a resident of Yuma, Arizona, according to HSI’s Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown.

Police requested the assistance of a K-9 unit which alerted officers to two toolboxes in the truck Lopez was driving. Agent Brown said Lopez, who is also the owner of the building that previously served as a KFC restaurant, was seen removing the toolboxes from the building earlier that day.

Authorities found 168 kilograms of drugs inside the toolboxes. Agent Brown said authorities found 118 kilos of methamphetamine, six grams of cocaine, three kilos of fentanyl, 13 kilos of white heroin, and six kilos of brown heroin inside the boxes.

The fentanyl alone could supply three million doses, according to Agent Brown.

Agents executed a search warrant at both the former restaurant and Lopez’s residence. The entrance of the tunnel was found in the kitchen area of the former KFC. The opening was only eight inches in diameter. It is believed the tunnel was used for drug smuggling purposes. A rope was used to lift the illegal wares from inside the tunnel and into the restaurant. The tunnel is believed linked to the Sinaloa Cartel.

The tunnel was 22 feet deep and extended 590 feet to its end-point at a residence in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora. On the Mexican side, a trap door was found underneath a bed.

The abandoned KFC was purchased by Ivan Lopez this past May for approximately $400,000, according to federal authorities. This is the fifth cross-border tunnel discovered in Yuma County, Arizona, since 2007.

Robert Arce is a retired Phoenix Police detective with extensive experience working Mexican organized crime and street gangs. Arce has worked in the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, and recently completed a three-year assignment in Monterrey, Mexico, working out of the Consulate for the United States Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Program, where he was the Regional Program Manager for Northeast Mexico (Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas.)


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