Skip to main content
Press Release

Second Defendant Charged In Connectionwith Cross-Border Tunnel

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

SAN DIEGO, CA – A second defendant was charged today in connection with a sophisticated cross-border tunnel discovered by the San Diego Tunnel Task force last week.

Gilberto Quezada-Madrid made his first appearance in federal court this morning on tunnel-related charges, including Use of Cross-Border Tunnel and Conspiracy to Maintain a Drug Involved Premises. The government moved for detention based on risk of flight, and U.S. Magistrate Judge David Bartick set a detention hearing for Thursday, April 10, at 9:30 AM.

According to the complaint, agents with Homeland Security Investigations, who are part of the task force, connected Quezada-Madrid with suspected tunnel locations in San Diego and Tijuana, including numerous sightings during surveillance dating back to 2013.

Most recently, on March 31, 2014, agents observed as the defendant arrived at the San Diego location - a warehouse at 10145 Via de la Amistad. The next day, on April 1, agents found a concealed cross-border narcotics tunnel inside the Via de la Amistad warehouse and learned that the entry point was inside a mini-storage facility named Mini Bodegas de la Frontera in Tijuana, about 800 feet south of the international border.

Two days later, members of the Tunnel Task Force, in collaboration with enforcement counterparts in Mexico, uncovered a second sophisticated smuggling tunnel connecting a commercial building in San Diego's Otay Mesa industrial park with a warehouse in Tijuana.

The first tunnel, approximately 600 yards in length, was discovered Tuesday evening based on evidence developed during a five-month probe by the task force. The passageway – equipped with lighting, a crude rail system and wooden trusses – exited inside the Via de la Amistad warehouse. The entrance was accessed down a 70-foot shaft secured by a cement cover. The builders had installed a pulley system at the tunnel's U.S. entrance to hoist contraband up into the warehouse. The warehouse itself was filled with a variety of children's toys, including plastic three-wheelers, and boxes of televisions, similar to the merchandise found in the warehouse linked to the smuggling tunnel uncovered locally in October 2013.

Task force investigators arrested a 73-year-old Chula Vista woman for allegedly overseeing the logistics at the Via de la Amistad warehouse. She is charged in a criminal complaint with conspiring with others to maintain a drug involved premises.

The second tunnel was detected Thursday morning as investigators from Mexico, in close coordination with special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), tracked leads related to the passageway uncovered Tuesday. The second passageway, which originated inside a warehouse located at 10005 Marconi Drive, was the more sophisticated of the two. Stretching for more than 700 yards, it was equipped with a multi-tiered electric rail system and an array of ventilation equipment.

The two tunnels are the sixth and seventh cross-border passageways discovered in the San Diego area in less than four years. If laid end-to-end, the seven tunnels would extend a distance of nearly two miles.

The ongoing investigations into the two tunnels are being conducted by the agencies that make up the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, including HSI; U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) - Border Patrol; the DEA; and the U.S. Attorney's Office. Additional support for this investigation has been provided by CBP's Office of Field Operations.

DEFENDANT   Case Number: 14mj1274
Gilberto Quezada-Madrid Age: 26 City: Tijuana

Use of a Cross Border Tunnel in violation of 21 U.S.C. Sections 555 and 2 Maximum Penalties: 20 years in prison.

Conspiracy to Maintain A Drug Involved Premises in violation of 21 U.S.C. Sections 856 (a)(1) and 846 Maximum Penalties: 20 years in prison.


San Diego Tunnel Task Force

*Indictments and complaints are not evidence that the defendant committed the crime charged.  All defendants are presumed innocent until the United States meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.     

Updated July 23, 2015