Drug smuggling tunnel exit discovered 300 yards from CBP port of entry in Otay Mesa

On March 20, federal agents discovered an exit-point for a cross-border tunnel about 800 feet north of the international border with Mexico. The agents were executing a search warrant issued by Magistrate Judge Mitchell D. Dembin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

Within this tunnel, agents discovered approximately 575 packages containing a mixture of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl with a total street value of about $29.6 million.

The tunnel exit was discovered inside a commercial warehouse located at 2587 Otay Center Drive in Otay Mesa, San Diego. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California news release, the warehouse is occupied by the Big Brands Warehouse Sales corporation. Big Brands Warehouse Sales was registered in February 2018, and at some point after it was suspended by the California Franchise Tax Board.

That warehouse is almost literally right next-door to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection port of entry at Otay Mesa!

Otay Mesa
Otay Mesa in San Diego: The CBP Port of Entry is on the right and the warehouse location of the tunnel exit is towards the upper-left. The international border with Mexico is marked with a solid yellow line.

The tunnel extends for more than 2,000 feet from a warehouse in Tijuana, Mexico. It has an average depth of 31 feet and most of the passageway is three feet wide.

Federal agents estimate the tunnel has been in existence for several months. Their assessment is based on advanced construction features including reinforced walls, ventilation, lighting and an underground rail system.

The defendant: Rogelio Flores Guzman

On March 18, agents conducting surveillance saw Rogelio Flores Guzman, a Mexican national with legal residency in the U.S., leave the warehouse at 2587 Otay Center Drive as the driver of a medium sized box-truck. The truck's cargo compartment was eventually discovered to be carrying ten illegal aliens from Mexico. The defendant was released pending further investigation.

On April 9, the defendant was contacted at the Los Angeles International Airport while waiting to board a flight to Guadalajara, Mexico. According to the court complaint, he was placed under arrest and admitted to participating in construction of the tunnel, controlling access to it and personally transporting drugs through the tunnel.

On April 10, Rogelio Flores Guzman was arraigned in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California for trafficking in fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana. The government argued that he was a flight risk, and Magistrate Judge Barbara L. Major ordered that he be detained without bond.

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