Drug Trafficking Tunnel from Arizona to Mexico Discovered After Traffic Stop

Cross-border Tunnel Attempt Stopped in Nogales. Photo by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In Yuma county, Arizona, in the farthest southwest corner of the state, in the city of San Luis situated just 200 yards to the north of the U.S./Mexico border, a ‘traffic stop’ led to the discovery of an apparent drug smuggling tunnel that ran almost 600 feet from underneath a building – which held what used to be a local Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant – to the bedroom of a house in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, Mexico, local NBC’s KYMA news reported last Wednesday.

On August 13th Ivan Lopez was stopped by local San Luis police for a traffic violation and that is when a canine unit detected drugs in Lopez’s truck in two toolboxes of the stopped vehicle where they say they found “168 kilograms of hard narcotics inside the toolboxes.”

KYMA reports, “HSI’s Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown said authorities found 118 kilograms of methamphetamine, six grams of cocaine, three kilograms of fentanyl, 13 kilograms of white heroin, and six kilograms of brown heroin, inside the toolboxes” and that “just the fentanyl alone could supply three million dosage units” with an estimated worth of about $1 million.

Lopez was identified as the owner of the truck and the report indicated Lopez was seen moving the toolboxes from the building to the truck earlier in the day.

At some point the department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Border Patrol, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) became involved and search warrants were acquired and executed to search both the building and Lopez’s residence.

Agents’ searches led to the discovery of an 8-inch diameter hole in the kitchen area of the restaurant that, when chipped away, led to a 22-foot deep entrance of a tunnel that traveled 590-feet under the U.S./Mexico border and ended inside a residence in Mexico. There is no report at this time identifying who owned or lived in the house where the tunnel ended.

The Washington Post reported records showed Lopez purchased the building in April, “paying $390,000 – all cash – for the abandoned restaurant.”

Local San Luis Police Chief Richard Jessup said while this was ‘unusual’ it was not surprising considering the building is but “a stone’s throw away from a bustling, official port of entry,” WaPo further reported.

In what is considered an unspoken rule in what is known as the largest border city in Arizona, which already has two border walls in the form of ’20-foot-tall fences,’ “what can’t go over the wall can and will go under it,” Jessup said.

According to Border Patrol spokesman Jose Garibay III, “There have been 203 tunnels discovered in the U.S. Border Patrol’s history, and this was the fifth one to be discovered in that region since 2007,”

Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown went on to say that while they’ve discovered tunnels used for smuggling purposes ranging from marijuana to human trafficking in the area, this tunnel appears to have been used for “purely hard narcotics.”

The following video, via the Washington Post, was released by the Yuma Sector Border Patrol and shows images of what federal agents uncovered.

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