Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Drug smuggling tunnel discovered in southern Arizona

Casper Star Tribune

By The Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Authorities in Nogales discovered a 40-foot tunnel, arrested two men and seized 300 pounds of marijuana they were pulling out of it.

The tunnel was one of two found Monday along the U.S.-Mexico border. The second was a 35-foot tunnel discovered by U.S. Border Patrol agents in San Diego when it caved in and the asphalt roadway above collapsed.

The Nogales discovery was made after agents with the Santa Cruz County Metro Task Force and Border Patrol agents acted on a tip about the tunnel, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada said.

Officers discovered two men loading the marijuana into a car. Arrested were Ricardo Jacinto, 19, of Patagonia, Ariz., and Nestor Alonzo Salcido Ontiveros, 29, of Nogales, Mexico.

Estrada said the tunnel came 10 feet past a sidewalk into a driveway near a home on the U.S. side of the border. Openings on both sides of the border have since been blocked.

The tunnel itself was small, "just small enough for a thin person who would have to wiggle their way through," Estrada said, adding that there was a man-made room in the tunnel where marijuana was stored.

Jacinto has been booked into the Santa Cruz County jail on $20,000 bond. Ontiveros was turned over the Mexican authorities. Seventeen tunnels have been discovered on the American side of the Arizona-Mexico border since 1995.

The San Diego tunnel was larger and more sophisticated. It was 3 feet by 3 feet and the roof was reinforced. It appears to have originated on land controlled by Mexican Customs.


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