Man Charged with Trafficking Almost $30 Million in Drugs through Cross-Border Tunnel
SAN DIEGO – Rogelio Flores Guzman, a Mexican national with legal residency in the U.S., was charged today with trafficking in fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana via a subterranean tunnel stretching from Mexico to a warehouse in Otay Mesa.
Flores, who was known to live in Victorville, Las Vegas and Otay Mesa, was taken into custody at Los Angeles International Airport yesterday as he was boarding a plane to Guadalajara, Mexico. He was arraigned this afternoon in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara L. Major via live video because of COVID-19 precautions. The judge ordered that he be detained without bond after the government argued that he was a flight risk.
“Cross-border tunnels always spark fascination, but in reality they are a very dangerous means for major drug dealers to move large quantities of narcotics with impunity until we intervene,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “We have seized this tunnel, confiscated almost $30 million in drugs and now we’ve charged one of the alleged crew members. They can dig tunnels, but we will find them, fill them in and put the leaders in prison.”
“This arrest reflects the unyielding commitment of the law enforcement community to curb the flow of illicit narcotics and keep our neighborhoods safe,” said Cardell T. Morant, acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Diego. “Despite the challenges we all face as we endure this pandemic, our federal agents and officers who make up the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, working alongside the U.S Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement, continue to investigate and serve justice to those involved with the construction and operation of this tunnel.”
“The DEA and our partners on the San Diego Tunnel Task Force are committed to finding cross-border tunnels, shutting them down, and holding people accountable for building, operating and using these tunnels to bring deadly drugs into our country,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge John W. Callery. “Today’s charges against one of the alleged crew members demonstrates our determination to do so. If any member of the public has information about a possible tunnel, I encourage them to contact the San Diego Tunnel Task Force at 1-877-9TUNNEL (1-877-988-6635).”
“We are grateful for the resolve, perseverance, and hard work that our law enforcement partners have demonstrated in making this arrest,” said Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke, “Collaboratively, the task force has shut-down the tunnel, seized over two tons of narcotics, and made this crucial arrest despite the current challenges. Our agents remain vigilant and dedicated to protecting America.”
On March 20, 2020, pursuant to the service a federal search warrant issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchel D. Dembin, federal agents discovered an exit-point for a subterranean transnational tunnel within a commercial warehouse located at 2587 Otay Center Drive, occupied by Big Brands Warehouse Sales Corporation.
From the entry-point in Mexico, the tunnel continues northbound, crossing the international border, with its exit-point located within the Otay Warehouse. Within this tunnel, agents located approximately 575 packages. Based upon field-tests, these packages tested presumptively positive to contain controlled substances in the following approximate gross amounts:
- 394 packages containing 585 kilograms of cocaine;
- 133 packages containing 1355 kilograms of marijuana;
- 40 packages of containing 39.12 kilograms of methamphetamine;
- Seven packages containing 7.74 kilograms of heroin; and
- One package containing 1.1 kilograms of fentanyl.
According to a complaint, federal agents conducting surveillance had seen Flores Guzman frequently come and go from the Otay Warehouse over the course of several months.
On March 18, agents conducting surveillance saw Flores Guzman leave the Otay Warehouse as the driver and sole visible occupant of a medium sized box-truck (a truck that had a separate cargo area that was only accessible from the back of the truck). As agents proceeded to follow, the defendant started to drive in a way that made agents believe he was aware that he was being followed. Specifically, at one point, the defendant pulled over, parked in a no parking zone, and briskly walked away from the Box Truck. Agents approached the parked Box Truck and, through a gap in the back door of the truck’s cargo compartment, agents were able to see human fingers, indicating that there were several people located in the Box Truck’s cargo compartment. Within the cargo area, agents located 10 people who later self-identified as Mexican nationals who did not legally enter the United States. The defendant was released pending further investigation.
On April 9, agents contacted the defendant at the Los Angeles International Airport as he waited to board a flight to Guadalajara, Mexico. The complaint said that during this contact, agents verbally advised the defendant of his Miranda rights, and he admitted participating in the tunnel construction, controlling access to the tunnel and personally transporting drugs through the tunnel.
He was charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances.
The discovery of the tunnel resulted from an ongoing investigation by members on the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, which include Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the United States Attorney’s Office.
The large seizure of mixed drugs represents the first time in San Diego’s history where five different types of drugs were found inside a tunnel. The total street value of the drugs seized from the tunnel is estimated at $29.6 million.
The tunnel extends for more than 2,000 feet underground from a warehouse in Tijuana, Mexico to a warehouse in the Otay Mesa area of San Diego. The tunnel has an average depth of 31 feet and is three-feet wide through most of the passageway.
Agents estimate the tunnel has been in existence for several months due to the advanced construction observed in several portions of the passageway, which included reinforced walls, ventilation, lighting and an underground rail system.
Flores Guzman’s next court appearances are scheduled for April 23 and May 7 at 9:30 a.m. before Judge Major.
DEFENDANT Case Number 20MJ1367
Rogelio Flores Guzman Age: 54 Victorville, Las Vegas, Chula Vista, CA
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances – Title 21, U.S.C., Secs. 841 (a)(1) and 846
Maximum Penalty: Life in prison, 10-year mandatory minimum; $10 million fine
Homeland Security Investigations
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
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.