Crime and Violence

Three suspects arrested after drug tunnel found between San Diego and Tijuana

A view from inside the tunnel discovered October 30 between San Diego and Tijuana. Photo: Immigration and Customs Enforcement, AFP, Getty Images.
A view from inside the tunnel discovered October 30 between San Diego and Tijuana. Photo: Immigration and Customs Enforcement, AFP, Getty Images.

11/10/13 — Another drug tunnel connecting San Diego and Tijuana was discovered on October 30 following a month-long investigation by the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the San Diego Tunnel Task Force. The tunnel stretched from a warehouse in Otay Mesa, just east of San Diego, into a warehouse outside of the Tijuana airport. Although reports indicated that it was not as elaborate as some of the other passageways discovered in recent years, it was still equipped with railcars, ventilation, and lighting, and was dug almost 40 feet underground.

Authorities have not indicated which Mexican drug cartel is connected to the tunnel, but they have arrested three suspects and seized 325 pounds of cocaine and at least eight tons of marijuana. Defendants Jose Arturo Mendoza and Juan Pena Osuna pleaded not guilty in a San Diego federal court on November 5 to charges of possession and intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana, respectively. They will be held without bail. Defendant Roman Santos also pleaded not guilty to charges of cocaine possession and intent to distribute, though his detention hearing was postponed upon request.

Photo: Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Photo: Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

This tunnel adds to the ever-growing list of underground passageways connecting the United States and Mexico. It is the eighth tunnel found in San Diego since 2006, and one of the more than 75 tunnels found across the U.S.-Mexico border since 2008. In 2012, four tunnels in Arizona and California were discovered in a one-week span in July, and another one was unearthed in Arizona at the end of December. Despite the continued discovery of such passageways, however, ICE Director John Sandweg applauded the work done by authorities to find the most recent tunnel. “This action is another huge setback for the Mexican cartels, which invest vast amounts of time and money to build them.” He continued, “These criminal organizations should not mistakenly believe tunnels will be their ticket to success.”


“Four tunnels discovered in one-week span on U.S.-Mexico border.” Justice in Mexico Project. July 18, 2013.

Associated Press. “Hallan narcotúnel en la frontera de San Diego y Tijuana.” Terra Noticias. October 31, 2013.

Marosi, Richard. “Border tunnel: 3 arrested; 8 tons of pot, 325 lbs. of cocaine seized.” Los Angeles Times. October 31, 2013.

Associated Press. “Hallan tunnel para el narcotráfico entre Tijuana y San Diego.” El Nuevo Herald. November 1, 2013.

Dibble, Sandra. “Bail hearing for drug tunnel suspects.” UT San Diego. November 5, 2013. 

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