Feds Seize Another Super Tunnel; Yields 22 Arrests and 12 Tons of Marijuana So Far
Assistant U. S. Attorney David Finn (619) 546-7342
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – October 22, 2015
SAN DIEGO – Federal officials seized control of a sophisticated cross-border super tunnel last night following a six-month undercover investigation that resulted in the arrests of 22 people in San Diego and Tijuana and the confiscation of 12 tons of marijuana.
The tunnel, approximately eight football fields in length, stretches from a warehouse in Tijuana to the Otay Center Warehouse, located at 2587 Otay Center Drive in San Diego. The passageway is believed to be equipped with lighting, electricity and a rail system and is one of the largest tunnels uncovered along the southern border in recent years.
Isaias Enriquez-Acosta and Isidro Silva-Acosta were arrested and charged in federal complaints this morning with unlawful conspiracy to import a controlled substance and conspiracy to use border tunnels and passages. They are scheduled to make their first court appearances at 2 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Bartick.
Mexican officials reported 16 arrests and the seizure of 10 tons of marijuana at the Tijuana tunnel entrance; San Diego County Sheriff’s officials arrested four people in connection with tunnel activity. Federal authorities here have seized almost 2 tons of marijuana and counting - they were still bringing bundles out of the tunnel today.
The newly-completed tunnel was discovered as a result of a six-month investigation by the Tunnel Task Force, which includes agents from Homeland Security Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Border Patrol. The Task Force began the investigation in May of 2015 with the introduction of an undercover agent to Enriquez-Acosta, according to the complaint. The agent offered to help transport and store drugs for the defendants, the complaint said. The undercover agent also helped transport buckets filled with dirt away from the tunnel warehouse, the complaint said.
The enforcement action that led to the shuttering of the tunnel last night was triggered by a meeting at a San Diego restaurant between the undercover agent and the defendants yesterday. At that meeting, the defendants and the undercover agent discussed the logistics for moving loads of marijuana from the tunnel warehouse to another warehouse, the complaint said. This was an indication that a load was about to be moved through the tunnel from Mexico to the U.S. Officials believe this was the first time the tunnel was used to move a significant quantity of drugs.
Silva was taken into custody Wednesday about 5:30 p.m. as about 30 agents from Homeland Security Investigations’ Special Response Team moved to take down the tunnel; Enriquez was arrested at a nearby hotel. In the front room of the Otay Center Warehouse, agents found a hole in the floor about 3-feet in diameter which led to a shaft descending approximately 32 feet down into the ground. The shaft connected to an underground tunnel leading towards the U.S.-Mexico border. Agents saw plastic-wrapped marijuana bundles stacked inside the tunnel.
“We see a super tunnel open for business once every year or so,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “Just when traffickers think they’re ready to move, we put them out of business. We continue to make good on our promise to relentlessly pursue and shut down any tunnel as soon as it opens.”
"Federal agents on the San Diego Tunnel Task Force have once again taken down a sophisticated cross border drug smuggling tunnel that was fully operational under the San Diego-Tijuana border,” said Dave Shaw, special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego. “The success of this investigation is yet another example of our commitment to secure the border while combating the increasingly dangerous underground smuggling activity.”
The marijuana seized in connection with the tunnel has an estimated street value of nearly $6 million. The tunnel dismantled Wednesday is the 10th large-scale drug smuggling tunnel discovered in the San Diego area since 2006. In the last five years, federal authorities have detected more than 75 cross-border smuggling tunnels, most of them in California and Arizona.
DEFENDANT Case Number: 15MJ3133
Isaias Enriquez-Acosta Age: 53 Tijuana, Mexico
Isidro Silva-Acosta Age: 27 Tijuana, Mexico
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Conspiracy – Unlawful Importation of a Controlled Substance, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 952, 960 and 963
Maximum penalty: Life in prison
Conspiracy – Border Tunnels and Passages, in violation of 18 United States Code, Section 555(d)
Maximum Penalty: Life in prison
Tunnel Task Force, including agents from Homeland Security Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Border Patrol
*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.