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Truck Driver Gets 21-Year Sentence For Drug Smuggling

— Twenty-nine year-old Carlos Enrique Cunningham Jr. from Oceanside has pleaded guilty to driving truckloads of marijuana from an Otay Mesa warehouse, connected by tunnel to Tijuana, for distribution in Southern California.

"This sentence that the judge gave is an extremely high sentence, and that is not only because of the vast quantity of marijuana that was seized," said Gretchen von Helms, Cunningham's defense attorney who negotiated the plea agreement. "His sentence was also because there was additional marijuana found at these warehouses."

Cunningham pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges earlier this year, and was given 260-months in prison for helping distribute the nearly 10 tons of pot.

On the morning of Nov. 2nd, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents followed Cunningham's tractor-trailer from Otay to a Border Patrol checkpoint in Temecula. A search there led to the marijuana packed inside large cargo boxes filling the entire trailer.

"His sentence was more aggravated because he was a career offender under the federal sentencing rules," added von Helms. "So his sentence would be harsher than maybe a first-time offender who would be caught with the same amount of marijuana."

Since 2007, more than 77 drug smuggling tunnels have been found along the U.S. Mexico border, mostly in California and Arizona.

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