OTAY MESA - Over the past four days, members of the San Diego Tunnel Task Force have unearthed two sophisticated smuggling tunnels linking Otay Mesa to Tijuana, leading to the arrest of a 73-year-old Chula Vista woman, authorities announced Friday.
The woman, who was identified in a probable cause affidavit as Glennys Rodriguez, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of overseeing logistics for one of the two tunnel operations, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She is charged in a criminal complaint with conspiring with others to maintain a drug-involved premises, an ICE statement said.
The first tunnel was found Tuesday with an exit point inside a warehouse filled with children's toys and televisions at 10145 Via De La Amistad. Authorities said it is 600 yards long and has a 70-foot shaft secured by a cement cover.
The second tunnel was found Thursday morning with help from Mexican officials who tracked leads generated from Tuesday's tunnel discovery, authorities said, adding that the second tunnel is more sophisticated than the first and has an exit point inside a warehouse at 10005 Marconi Drive. That's about 800 feet from the first tunnel on Via De La Amistad.
The second tunnel was described as stretching 700 yards and being 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.
"Here we are again, foiling cartel plans to sneak millions of dollars of illegal drugs through secret passageways that cost millions of dollars to build," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. "Going underground is not a good business plan. We have promised to locate these super tunnels and keep powerful drug cartels from taking their business underground and out of sight, and once again, we have delivered on that promise."
No drugs were seized in connection with this week's tunnel busts, but more than 100 tons of narcotics associated with tunnels have been seized by authorities in the last four years.
10News tracked down Rodriguez’s mobile home in Chula Vista. Neighbor Cathy Welsh said that Rodriguez had lived at the mobile home park for four years. Welsh said Rodriguez was so well liked she was elected vice president of the homeowner’s association.
Rodriguez’ white Cadillac, which was mentioned in the affidavit, was parked in her driveway. According to the complaint, investigators found a purple folder inside that car which contained real estate documents related to the warehouse space on Via De La Amistad, where one of the drug tunnels was found.
An agent also reported seeing her at the warehouse and using her own key to lock it.
In the documents, the special agent in charge of San Diego Homeland Security Investigations described Rodriguez as a “facilitator.”
More arrests are expected in the coming days.
Last year, 10News Anchor/Reporter Steve Atkinson was escorted inside a drug tunnel in Tijuana for a first-hand look at what it's like to crawl through one of them. It's a place few members of the media have gone. Read his story.