9 On Your Side Border Watch
Active drug tunnel found under porch of Nogales home
Agents say it's part of a much larger operation
Reporter: Claire Doan
NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) – U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) located and shut down an active drug-smuggling tunnel Tuesday, after it was in operation for only a couple of weeks.
The Arizona entrance of the tunnel is beneath the front porch of a Nogales home, which is located about one-half mile west of the DeConcini Port of Entry and mere steps away from the border fence.
Kevin Kelly, an assistant special agent for ICE, said the discovery is unusual because of how brazen drug smugglers have become; usually, tunnel exits on the U.S. side of the border are found inside a home, making the operation even more covert. However, this one was hidden under porch.
In this case, smugglers likely operated under the cover of night, dropping bags of narcotics into the trunks of cars parked in the driveway. Kelly told KGUN9 that a smuggler could load a car with 2,400 pounds of drugs within 20 minutes.
The tunnel is 70-feet long, 3 feet wide and 2 feet tall, and extends 25 feet into Mexico. Authorities said it comes up inside a drainage tunnel that parallels the U.S.-Mexico border on International Street.
“It’s pretty much all belly crawling here. No upright positions. There’s only a couple of places where you can turn around,” said Border Patrol Agent Kevin Hecht.
Kelly said they obtained a search warrant after getting some intelligence on the home and discovered the tunnel; however, they did not find any drugs.
“We anticipate some arrests. It’s part of a much bigger conspiracy investigation,” Kelly said, adding that the tunnel is not related to the 400-yard one recently found between Tijuana and San Diego.
Agents said the people who lived inside the home were renters – and authorities located a tunnel inside the residence six years ago.