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Illegal Tunnel Found Near Border

Mexican officials hold four people after finding the entrance inside a Mexicali tire shop. Officials suspect it was made for illegal cargo.

September 13, 2003|Jose Cardenas | Times Staff Writer

Mexican authorities found a tunnel Friday, believed to have been built to move drugs and other illegal cargo across the border from Mexicali to Imperial County, and arrested four people.

Utility workers in Calexico found the tunnel, said Ricardo Sandoval of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Mexican officials found the start of the tunnel inside a Mexicali tire shop about 60 yards south of the border, Sandoval said.

Police arrested four people at the shop, including the owner and a man with a gun, according to Aldo Espinoza, Baja California's state police director.

The tunnel appeared to be under construction because it did not have an opening on the U.S. side, officials said. It zigzagged north for about 250 yards, ending abruptly under some Calexico homes.

Sandoval said American officials would try to determine whether anyone on the U.S. side of the border had been involved.

"I think the important thing is that it was found before it was in operation," Sandoval said.

Similar tunnels for transporting drugs have been found in San Diego County, officials said. The one in Calexico is the first one found in Imperial County.

The tunnel was discovered about 2 a.m. by city workers digging a ditch with a backhoe. It was about two feet from the surface, Sandoval said, and was about four feet high and two feet wide.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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