A tunnel has been discovered that runs nearly 600ft long from a former KFC restaurant in San Luis, Arizona, to a private home in Mexico.
Authorities in Arizona discovered the tunnel after seeing the owner of a now-abandoned business bringing a number of plastic containers outside and loading them into his truck.
Officers pulled the man over for an unspecified equipment violation. It was during this traffic stop that a narcotics dog alerted the officers to the presence of drugs in two of the containers.
Police then found 239 packages of a variety of different drugs inside the containers, including over 261 pounds of methamphetamine, 14 pounds of cocaine, 30 pounds of white heroin, 13.7 pounds of brown heroin and 6.8 pounds of fentanyl.
Police listed the total value of the drugs at more than $1 million, reports CNN.
The man, identified as Jesus Ivan Lopez Garcia, reportedly purchased the empty KFC in April this year.
After his arrest, police searched the vacant restaurant and discovered the entrance to the tunnel inside.
According to Homeland Security Investigations officials, the tunnel was 22 feet deep, 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It ran for about 590 feet underground, from the restaurant to a house across the border in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico. The tunnel came up underneath a trap door under a bed in the house.
The drugs are believed to have been pulled through the tunnel with a rope.
Lopez Garcia is now facing federal charges, including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine.
Court documents stated:
This tunnel was very well constructed and would have taken this Drug Trafficking Organisation a long time to dig and would have been very expensive.
This tunnel necessarily required a combination of several individuals on both sides of the border, engaged in an intricate, risky transnational conspiracy to construct such a secretive structure.
Almost 200 cross border tunnels have been discovered since 1990, according to the Independent. In 2006, a tunnel that ran nearly a mile and half between Otay Mesa, California, and Tijuana, Mexico, was found by authorities.
Scott Brown, special agent in charge for the Homeland Security Investigations, said:
Tunnels are a time consuming venture but [their incidence] has definitely increased since the border security measures have ramped up.
One of the things that tunnelling does tell us, is that as we increase infrastructure, resources, patrol – that’s forcing them to go to more costly routes into the US.
Mr Brown added that a tunnel such as this can cost drug traffickers hundreds of thousands of dollars to build.
Lopez Garcia bought the KFC restaurant in April, but authorities are unsure how long it had been used as the underground route.
Homeland Security has a tunnel task force and the Customs and Border Protection Agency has a tunnel detection and technology programme for this type of crime.
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