Law enforcement officials raided the tunnel Tuesday. They confiscated more than 32.4 tons of marijuana – the largest seizure from a border tunnel operation in the state – in warehouses in Otay Mesa and Tijuana, and in a tractor trailer allegedly driven by suspects Salvador Zuniga and Laureano Gonzalez from Otay Mesa to the City of Industry outside of Los Angeles.
Zuniga and Gonzalez are facing conspiracy and distribution charges and could face up to 10 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. In Federal Court Thursday the judge approved a request to keep the men in custody because they are a flight risk, a detention hearing is set for Dec. 6. In addition, the men were appointed defense attorneys and were scheduled preliminary hearings on Dec. 15.
Four other men arrested in connection with the tunnel are being charged in California’s Central District.
The tunnel was found 40 feet below the surface and spanned 612 yards from a warehouse in Tijuana to another in Otay Mesa. The passageway – four feet wide and four feet, seven inches tall – was equipped with an elevator and a rail system. It was the second major tunnel shut down in the last two weeks and the seventh in the last five years.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said the investigation into this specific tunnel operation began in the spring. U.S. and Mexican officials have not released information regarding which drug-trafficking organization owned the tunnel or the drugs.
The other four suspects in custody in Los Angeles are identified as Saul Perez, Adrian Escobedo, Samuel Treto Jr. and Miguel Angel Felix Echavarria.