Tags: nogales | drug | tunnel

Nogales Drug Tunnel Discovered This Week Is Longest of Its Kind

Friday, 14 Feb 2014 05:36 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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The 481-foot drug tunnel discovered this week in Nogales, Ariz., is the longest ever found.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the discovery of the tunnel, which ran between two private homes, one in Nogales, Ariz., and the other in Nogales, Sonara, Mexico.

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“Accessed by shafts at each end, the tunnel stretches 411 feet from the U.S entrance to the international border and extends for another 70 feet into Mexico,” an ICE release said. “The passageway is roughly 2 feet wide by 3 feet tall, and contains wood shoring, electric lighting and fans to circulate air inside.”

Three men were arrested in connection with the drug operation that used the tunnel, and 640 pounds of marijuana and a half pound of heroin were recovered, ICE said.

Jose Solorzano-Flores, 41, and Jose Mario Armenta-Valdez, 41, both of Mexico, and Jesus Alberto Ramirez-Valencia, 22, of Nogales, Ariz., face federal drug conspiracy charges.

“This drug trafficking organization clearly invested significant time and resources into constructing a tunnel of this size, in an attempt to move both marijuana and hard drugs onto the streets of the United States," said Eric Balliet, assistant special agent in charge of HSI Nogales, in the release.

“This was one of the more complex and exhausting tunnels to investigate in recent Nogales tunnel history," Kevin Hecht, deputy patrol agent in charge of Nogales Station Border Patrol, said in the release.

Balliet told The Arizona Republic that tighter border security is sending drug dealers underground.

"If a drug-trafficking organization can establish a well-manufactured tunnel, the likelihood of a law-enforcement encounter is somewhat slim," he said. "You don't run the risk of exposing your dope above ground, whether it's human backpackers or smuggling through the port or over the fence. It's completely concealed from start to finish."

It was the third drug tunnel found in the area since December, the Republic said.

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