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Another Otay Mesa Drug Tunnel Discovered

April 21, 2016 1:52 p.m.

Another Otay Mesa Drug Tunnel Discovered

GUEST:

Laura Duffy, U.S. Attorney for San Diego

Related Story: Another Otay Mesa Drug Tunnel Discovered

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

In other news the longest smuggling -- smuggling tunnel ever found is the second super tunnel found by authorities in recent weeks. Be half-mile long tunnel was elaborate with lighting and ventilation systems and with discovery authorities also sees more than 2000 pounds of cocaine and 14,000 pounds of marijuana. This morning I spoke with US attorney for the Southern District of California Laura Duffy.
Laura thank you for joining us.
Think you for having me.
Tell me more about this tunnel. Where did it start and where did it end?
The tunnel originates in Tijuana Mexico it was in a residence. There was a closet in that residence and an elevator. The elevator would hold about 10 individuals it goes down into the tunnel. The tunnel goes from there and it zigzags as it crosses over the border it comes up in oh tie industrial area inside oh tie palace is the name of this alleged business. In a fairly open gravel lot with wood pallets.
Do you suspect this tunnel was used to smuggle people as well as drugs?
We don't. We don't have any reason to believe that at this point. Not only is it the longest tunnel but it's one of the narrowest of the super tunnels that we have found. If you seen some of the footage or the photos is about 3 feet in circumference so it's pretty tight quarters down there.
You have any estimate on how long this tunnel was in operation?
We can't say with certainty but the agencies have been monitoring this particular location since last fall. They came upon this business -- they had some questions about the legitimacy of the business, what they were seeing their Cobbe structures. There was no actual business taking place there. It was something that they identified as perhaps a front or a farce business. They had been watching it pretty vigilantly over the last several months. They have seen with the believed to be some practice runs taking place. They believe this was the first actual load that was moved through.
Laura Duffy, six people were taken into custody in connection with the tunnel discovery. Do you think many more were involved though?
There's always additional individuals who are involved in the construction, planning, and movement of drugs through these tunnels especially the super tunnels. Our investigation is in full gear and there is definitely a number of leads that we are following. A pretty confident we will identify other individuals.
Was there a drug cartel involved?
I can't talk about that but they usually is with respect to these because of the pretty big endeavor it takes not only a great deal of time but resources to build one of these.
What connection, if any, is there between this long tunnel and the other so-called super tunnel found in Calexico last month?
There's not any relationship that I'm aware of at this time. Organizationally, the same organization may be behind it but as far as individuals who were involved in building its we didn't see similarities. Interestingly enough we did see similarities between this tunnel -- the way it was built consummate the construction materials and a structure and it was quite similar to when we found in 2010.
How do you explain this zigzagging of the tunnel? Is that a function of the structure or -- why would they build it that way?
Wheelies have a couple of theories when we see something like that. They may go in one direction they either encounter an obstacle geographically or they got spooked. They were intending to go to one location, they had some concerns about where they would come up in the US and they change their minds. And Ms. tunnel we also believe what they did was to use as a side -- if you will -- a support one of the previous tunnels that we have filled in which we do a cement sludge. They use that as a support along one wall of the tunnel.
So there is no reason to suspect that these super tunnels are being built by mastermind engineers. Sometimes, apparently they have to find their way as they are building the tunnel?
Definitely the super tunnels as we have seen in the past there is architects, engineers, it's very structured the way they have supported it. This tunnel was a little bit more rudimentary than that. It had the ventilation and lighting and rails, did have the elevator but throughout the tunnel we did not see that being very structured construction.
How do Smugglers managed to build elaborate tunnels like this without alerting Mexican authorities?
It is interesting and they usually go to elaborate extents to conceal what it is they are doing. One thing we know anytime a tunnel is built a tremendous amount of dirt has to be taken from the site of the tunnel and elsewhere. We have heard from individual to of been involved in tunnels before -- we've seen it -- they do that around the clock they do it in 5 gallon Home Depot buckets. They do it with machinery so they vary their methods and their operations and the time that they work. One of the things is you would think in that area it would be loud and it would be -- our counterparts in Mexico are very interested in identifying and locating tunnels as well. We frequently work with them anytime we have information to try and find both points.
Are you concerned that the tunnel do seem to be getting longer, so much more elaborate, and one might suppose more effective in smuggling drugs into the country?
Tunnels are something that we are always concerned about four not just the traffickers ability to bring drugs into the country but what else they may be doing with them and what else they could bring into the country through them. It's always a concern. I think that what we are seeing and what we have seen in an increasing rate over the last several years certainly since 2010 we have see the number of civil tunnels is that the border itself is hardening both at the ports of entry and in between the ports of entry. Traffickers are exploring every which way that they can bring controlled substances into the country.
Finally, I think you mentioned this Laura Duffy but eventually after all the investigation is over how do you seal of the tunnels?
We being the government with customs and border protection they do environmental study, they do a safety of the ground study and it's usually with cement sludge through to the Mexican side of the border.
Terrific. Thank you for speaking with us.
Happy to be here.