Space & Innovation

'Longest' Drug Tunnel Found on Calif.-Mexico Border

Estimated to span more than 800 yards, it contains an elevator, as well as lights and rail and ventilation systems.

Estimated to span more than 800 yards (730 meters), it contains an elevator, as well as lights and rail and ventilation systems, the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California said Wednesday.

The narrow tunnel connects a house in Tijuana, Mexico, to a commercial lot in Otay Mesa, California, where the exit is a three-foot (0.9 meter) diameter hole that, at one point, was hidden from view by a dumpster, it said in a statement.

Inside the tunnel, federal agents found 68 bales of marijuana weighing 1,638 pounds (743 kilograms), with another 1,430 pounds hidden in the dumpster.

9 Incredibly Creative Drug Smuggling Tricks

Overall, authorities seized more than 14,000 pounds of marijuana and 2,242 pounds of cocaine during the probe, which resulted in six arrests in San Diego on Friday.

"On the surface, few would ever suspect that traffickers were moving multi-ton quantities of cocaine and marijuana worth tens of millions of dollars in such an unassuming way, through this rabbit hole in the ground, in full view of the world around it," US Attorney Laura Duffy said.

The statement from the US Attorney's Office compared the tunnel's estimated length to that of more than eight American football fields, adding that "federal officials have seized what they believe to be the longest cross-border tunnel ever discovered along the California-Mexico border."

Six months ago, authorities from both countries dismantled another drug-trafficking tunnel in the same border area.

U.S. authorities have uncovered what they believe to be the longest ever cross-border drug trafficking tunnel connecting Mexico and California, a statement said.

An Innovative Industry

With multi-trillion dollar global market for illicit narcotics, drug traffickers have a clear incentive to get their products down the supply chain to their customers, despite the legal and moral objections to their activities. As traffickers are increasingly put under pressure by authorities looking to shut down such enterprises, entrepreneurial drug smugglers are constantly inventing new, unusual and often outrageous means of crossing borders unchecked.

Submarine Smuggling

In what might be the most sophisticated means of transportation ever employed by drug traffickers, this submarine was used by smugglers based out of Timbiqui, Colombia, until the Colombian army seized the vessel earlier this year. Capable of transporting roughly 8 tons of cocaine in each trip, the submarine would leave from Colombia and drop off its contents in Mexico, which would then be broken up and transported in smaller quantities across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Incoming!

Modern technology may not be the only means of getting illegal drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border. More primitive tools may be enough to do the trick. Last month, the Mexican Army seized two catapults that were use to launch marijuana into Arizona from the Mexican city, Agua Prieta, according to a report from the Associated Press. Oddly enough, this seizure was actually the second time that authorities uncovered this method of smuggling. In January, two other catapults were discovered in Naco, a city that shares both sides of the border.

Going Underground

If drug smugglers can't get over the fence that stands between them and the southwestern United States, there no reason that they couldn't just tunnel under. Since the 1990s, more than 100 such tunnels have been discovered, many of which originate in Tijuana, Mexico, and lead into San Diego, Calif. Some tunnels are so sophisticated that they have lights and climate control, according to a report by CNN in 2009. The tunnels help smugglers not only bring drugs across the border, but also people, money and weapons.

Contraband Clams

Smuggling drugs in clams might make sense if taken on a fishing boat. A plane, however, is another story. On Sept. 8, 2011, 26-year-old David Pocasangre Vaquiz from El Salvador arrived in Washington-Dulles International Airport. In his luggage, Customs and Border Protection officials found more than 150 grams of cocaine concealed inside 15 clams, all of which had been glued shut to conceal their cargo.

Once You Pop...

A Pringles can may not seem like the most thoughtful means of hiding small quantities of narcotics. However, in 2006, police in Texas found a Pringles can containing what were essentially molded wafers of solid cocaine that were thinly sliced and shaped to resemble potato chips.

A Small Stash

Even the smallest object can be used to contain a hidden drug cache. In August 2011, authorities with the Federal Public Revenue Administration of Argentina found cocaine concealed in tiny screws carried by a Peruvian man flying from Buenos Aires to South Africa. In total, the smuggler had some 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of cocaine hidden among screws and other items on his person.

A Casket Case

Hiding narcotics in a coffin may seem like an especially grim means of smuggling illegal cargo. But this tactic has been used successfully by smugglers, most famously by trafficker Frank Lucas during the Vietnam War to ship heroine in the caskets of dead American soldiers. In fact, even tombstones have concealed hidden caches of marijuana and cocaine.

Not Appropriate for All Ages

Few would have expected to see Elmo on the other side of the law. But in 2006, agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration's Rocky Mountain Field Division seized more than 40 pounds of crystal methamphetamine. Traffickers used Elmo plush dolls, which were capable of holding around four pounds of meth each, to conceal their product.