Sinaloa cartel leader tied to drug tunnels

Oct. 4, 2012 at 7:30 AM
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SAN DIEGO, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. authorities tied a top Mexican cartel member to two of the largest drug tunnels ever found under the San Diego-Tijuana border, an indictment indicated.

Federal prosecutors in San Diego said Jose Sanchez-Villalobos, who was arrested in Mexico on money-laundering charges in January and faces extradition proceedings, is the highest-ranking member of the Sinaloa drug cartel ever charged in construction of underground tunnels, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

The 13-count federal indictment was handed down by a grand jury in San Diego in February and unsealed Wednesday.

Prosecutors allege Sanchez-Villalobos oversaw construction and operation of a 2,200-foot-long tunnel discovered in November 2010, and a similar underground passageway found a year later. Prosecutors said Sanchez-Villalobos received frequent updates on construction work, controlled drug flow and directed other traffickers to use the tunnels.

The Times said both tunnels were discovered in the same area of San Diego's Otay Mesa community -- a warehouse district where law enforcement agencies have unearthed drug tunnels for years.

The tunnel found in 2011 had an elevator and a rail-and-cart system. Law enforcement agencies seized 32 tons of marijuana, among the largest drug seizures in U.S. history.

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