Earlier this year, US Border Patrol agents foiled a narcotics smuggling attemptand subsequently discovered a sophisticated, underwater, cross-border tunnel.
Evelio Padilla, a 28-year-old Honduras immigrant who came to the US illegally,
pleaded guilty this week in federal court in San Diego to one count of possession of drugs with intent to distribute.
According to court documents, Border Patrol agents found a soaked Padilla in a wetsuit next to the All-American Canal, about 7 miles east of Calexico, California, on April 25.
Padilla used a 150-foot-long tunnel, which began at a house in Mexicali, Mexico, and opened up to an underwater canal in the US.
The drugs were placed on a trolley system on the dry Mexican side of the tunnel, and smugglers used scuba gear to retrieve it from the submerged canal portion. The tunnel was approximately 4 feet by 4 feet and equipped with lighting and ventilation, according to a US Customs and Border Patrol report.
Authorities found a scuba gear breathing tank with a “rebreather” which prevents bubbles from rising to the surface and several vacuum-sealed packages that held a total of 55 pounds of cocaine.
“Drug smugglers will try anything to move their product, even scuba diving in an underwater tunnel,” US Attorney Laura Duffy said in a statement. “The ingenuity of the smugglers is matched only by our determination to thwart it.”
Authorities have not said whether they have learned who built and operated the tunnel, or whether more arrests were expected.
Padilla faces a maximum of 20 years in prison at sentencing.
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