Evelio Padilla, whose arrest led federal to an underwater drug-smuggling tunnel near the U.S-Mexico border, pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday.
The three other suspected smugglers who were caught on surveillance the night Padilla was arrested escaped back to Mexico.
Padilla, 28, is a Honduran national. The Associated Press reported that Padilla was initially told he would be smuggling people across the border, but was instead tasked with drug smuggling after he crossed the international boundary. Padilla said that he had no other option.
On Saturday night, April 25, Border Patrol agents watched on remote surveillance as four men moved to smuggle narcotics into the United States , according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It was later determined the narcotics consisted of 69 pounds of methamphetamine.
Three of the men successfully fled back to Mexico while agents responding to the scene caught a man, later determined to be Padilla, in a wet suit. Agents investigated further. They then discovered scuba diving equipment and the vacuum-sealed narcotics.
Special Border Patrol unit BORSTAR searched the area that Monday and found a tunnel described as 150 feet in length with dimensions of 4 feet by 4 feet. Lighting and ventilation ran through the passage, which connected a house in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico to the United States.
Agents with the multi-government California Corridor Campaign (C-3) worked with Mexican law enforcement officials in pinpointing the house on the Mexican side.
Breitbart Texas reported in April: “Border tunnels are extremely valuable to Mexican drug cartels, given the extensive effort and financial resources required to create them. They are also difficult to find, although more than 80 such tunnels have been discovered since 2006.”
In response to Padilla’s plea, Carla Provost, Chief Patrol Agent, El Centro Border Patrol, said, “We are pleased with the conclusion of this serious matter resulting from the arrest of this man and dangerous drugs seized by El Centro Sector Border Patrol Agents.”
El Centro Sector Border Patrol Spokesman Guillermo Esparza told Breitbart News, “As part of an increase in the Border Patrols infrastructure, Remote Video Surveillance Systems, have been strategically deployed throughout the Southwest Border. These infrared capable video monitoring systems are manned by Border Patrol Agents 24 hours a day and are used to monitor areas along the border such as the area where the tunnel was located.” According to Esparza, Padilla faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
Esparza confirmed that the other three men caught in the surveillance video have not been tracked down.
Esparza told Breitbart News, “The portion of the tunnel in the United States was filled in with concrete.”
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