ad info




CNN.com
 MAIN PAGE
 WORLD
 ASIANOW
 U.S.
 LOCAL
 POLITICS
 WEATHER
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 TECHNOLOGY
 NATURE
 ENTERTAINMENT
 BOOKS
 TRAVEL
 FOOD
 HEALTH
 STYLE
 IN-DEPTH

 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

  CNN WEB SITES:
CNN Websites
 TIME INC. SITES:
 MORE SERVICES:
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines
 pointcast
 pagenet

 DISCUSSION:
 message boards
 chat
 feedback

 SITE GUIDES:
 help
 contents
 search

 FASTER ACCESS:
 europe
 japan

 WEB SERVICES:
US

13 charged in tunnel drug smuggling scheme

May 25, 1999
Web posted at: 11:01 p.m. EDT (0301 GMT)

PHOENIX (CNN) -- A federal indictment issued Tuesday charged 13 people with smuggling cocaine from Naco, Sonora in Mexico to Naco, Arizona through a narrow tunnel nearly as long as a football field.

Nine of the suspects were arrested, all but one of them in the United States, on charges of conspiring to import, possess and distribute cocaine, and other offenses. Those arrested on the U.S. side of the border were expected to appear before a federal magistrate in Tuscon Wednesday.

Jim Molessa, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said authorities have seized $1.5. million in cash and 2,600 pounds of cocaine as part of the investigation that began about a year and a half ago.

"This tunnel is novel," he said. "This substantiates something in Arizona we've been saying for a long time. Arizona's become the gateway for illicit drugs in the United States. We used to be the doormat."

Molessa said drugs smuggled into the country over the Arizona border are moved to Los Angeles for warehousing and distribution elsewhere, as well as to points in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

He said Arizona has become a distribution center in its own right: "Last week in Phoenix, 971 kilograms of cocaine was seized in a house used as a warehouse."

The tunnel -- about 50 yards long on the U.S. side and another 30-40 yards on the Mexican side -- is about 15 feet underground, about 3-4 feet in height and 4 feet wide, shored up with timber and in some places wood paneling, Molessa said.

He said it was discovered by agents executing one of seven search warrants.

"Somebody went to considerable expense to make sure this was a safe entry to go through," the DEA spokesman said.

He said the suspects were part of a "transportation organization that moved drugs into the United States. They're like Mayflower Moving. If you've got a substance you want moved, these are the people you call."

Molessa said the investigation was a joint effort by the U.S. attorney's office in Phoenix, FBI, DEA, U.S. Customs, U.S. Border Patrol, Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Border Alliance Group which includes officers from the Cochise County Sheriff's and Bisbee Police departments.

He said Mexican federal police coordinated the investigation on the Mexican side of the border, and cooperated fully with U.S. and state authorities.


RELATED STORIES:
U.S., Mexico sign new pact to fight drugs


RELATED SITES:
DEA - Home Page
FBI Home Page
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
 LATEST HEADLINES:
SEARCH CNN.com
Enter keyword(s)   go    help

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.