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Home  >  Topics  >  Investigations

April 14, 2004
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U.S. Authorities Drilling in Calexico Find No Cross-Border Drug Tunnels

By Elliot Spagat, The Associated Press

Calexico, Calif. (AP) -- The federal government began drilling holes in this border town searching for a tunnel it believes may be used to smuggle drugs from Mexico.

But after seven hours of work, officials said they had come up empty.

With technology developed by geophysicists, the Department of Homeland Security identified the possible tunnel -- two feet wide and about 15 feet below ground _ two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, a giant drill plugged ten holes in a dirt road used by the Border Patrol. The crew reported a change in soil at about 14 feet and struck water at about 18 feet. They brought along a camera on a six-foot pole to scope underground.

But Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for Homeland Security, said the crew by late Tuesday had found nothing amiss and tentatively concluded there was no drug tunnel in the area.

The offensive marked a shift in the government's efforts to locate the clandestine tunnels. Previously, agents have relied on human intelligence and sheer luck, such as when a Border Patrol agent on patrol in Calexico, about 120 miles east of San Diego, struck a sink hole in November.

Officials were mum on what kind of technology they used, saying they want to avoid tipping off smugglers. Calexico Police Chief Mario Sanchez said officials told him they used a sonic recording device.

U.S. and Mexican officials have discovered at least 10 cross-border tunnels since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks prompted heightened security along the border.

U.S. officials said increased border enforcement may be forcing drug smugglers to be more creative. Each tunnel is estimated to cost between $800,000 and $1 million to build, said Misha Piastro, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In Calexico, an arid town of about 30,000 people that abuts the large industrial Mexican city of Mexicali, city workers discovered an incomplete tunnel in September that zigzagged about 250 yards into a residential area.

Associated PressCopyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Mexican authorities arrested four people where the tunnel allegedly originated in Mexicali. The suspected ringleader said he planned to rent the ventilated tunnel to a large drug smuggling ring, according to investigators.






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