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On Thanksgiving Day, federal agents in California had more than the usual to be thankful for.
A discovery of a sophisticated, well-built drug tunnel leading from a home in Mexico directly to warehouses in San Diego led to the arrest of nine suspects and the capture of between 20 and 30 tons of marijuana.
The find comes just weeks after other tunnels were discovered leading between California and Mexico. Between the two, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Drug Enforcement Administration authorities say they have confiscated enough marijuana to equal one joint for every one of California's almost 37 million citizens.
"This is obviously not a Mom and Pop operation," Miguel Unzueta, a San Diego-based agent with ICE, told CNN. The agent went on to describe the drug tunnel as "very sophisticated" containing supports, ventilation, lighting and rail carts for ease of transportation. The entry on the Mexican side of the tunnel was through a kitchen in a house in Tijuana.
The discovery of the tunnel came after agents spotted a tractor-trailer truck making a pick-up at one of the San Diego warehouses, reports CNN. When first entering the drug tunnel on the California side, agents couldn't even get through, because it was blocked by huge packages of marijuana. Agent Unzueta told CNN the agents had to form a human chain to remove what they estimated to be 3-4 tons of the drug.
Acting on a tip from U.S. agents, Mexican authorities then seized an additional 3 to 4 more tons. CNN reports the wholesale value of the seized pot would equal between $17 million and $20 million.
Drivers of the tractor-trailer and an additional truck are in custody and facing federal drug smuggling charges. Anyone curious about the penalties for smuggling controlled substances can view the easy-to-read and understand schedule of penalties provided by the DEA. The penalty for trafficking "1,000 kg or more mixture; or 1,000 or more plants" of marijuana is not less than 10 years, but fortunately not more than life, in prison.