CALEXICO, Calif., March 24 (UPI) -- Federal investigators uncovered a 415-yard tunnel under a newly constructed home in southern California leading to a restaurant in Mexico, marking the first time alleged drug traffickers purchased U.S. property solely to conceal an underground smuggling passageway.
Four people were arrested after the tunnel was discovered underneath a three-bedroom home that sits about 300 yards from the border. The other end of the tunnel was inside a restaurant in Mexicali, Mexico. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said investigators seized thousands of pounds of marijuana with a street value of about $6 million.
"For the builders, the financiers and the operators of these sophisticated tunnels, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. We will seize your drugs and your tunnel before you even have a chance to use it," U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy of Southern California said.
Investigators said mother and daughter Eva Duarte De Medina and Marcia Manuela Duarte-Medina purchased the land, paying $240,000 in April. They were arrested in Arizona. Joel Duarte Medina and Manuel Gallegos Jiminez were arrested in Calexico.
The home was built from October through December for a total cost of $86,000. The property owners allegedly told the contractors to leave a space in the concrete foundation in the front room of the home for a floor safe.
The tunnel entryway is a three-foot-wide hole with a shaft that descends 32 feet. It leads into passageway with a rail system, lighting and electricity. The tunnel passes underneath several streets and a 14-foot border fence.