JammedUp News

News

Federal authorities discover cross-border drug smuggling tunnel beneath out of business KFC in Arizona

August 24, 2018  |  Posted by: Michael Falzarano
Federal authorities discover cross-border drug smuggling tunnel beneath out of business KFC in Arizona

Are you in a legal jam? Find a Lawyer, Bail Bondsman or Private Investigator on JammedUp.

Federal authorities discover cross-border drug smuggling tunnel underneath an out of business KFC restaurant in Arizona.

Federal authorities uncovered a complex cross-border drug smuggling tunnel under an abandoned fast-food restaurant in Arizona that led to a home in Mexico.

Officials with the Department of Homeland Security Investigations Unit says agents received information back in April that there was a tunnel leading to an out of business Kentucky Fried Chicken in San Luis, Arizona, just about 200 yards north of the border.

Authorities started surveilling the owner of the abandoned building, Ivan Lopez and ultimately arrested him earlier this month after discovering several packages of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl in the back of his truck.

HSI agents discovered a tunnel connecting Arizona and Mexico. (Homeland Security Investigations and Yuma Sector Border Patrol)

Lopez’s arrest led to a search at his home and the old restaurant, where agents found a hidden tunnel that led to a house in Mexico and was large enough for people to freely walk through.

“One of the things that tunneling does tell us is that as we increase infrastructure, resources, patrol, that’s forcing them to go to more costly routes into the U.S.,” Scott Brown, the special agent in charge for HSI, told the Associated Press on Thursday.

Brown said his agency has been seeing an increase in tunnels, which are expensive to build and take long periods of time. He said a functioning tunnel can cost cartels hundreds of thousands of dollars to build.

The tunnel was located in a former KFC restaurant. (Homeland Security Investigations and Yuma Sector Border Patrol)

“Tunnels are a time-consuming venture, but it has definitely increased since the border security measures have ramped up,” Brown said.

Officials don’t long the tunnel has been in use, but Lopez only bought the property in April.

According to court documents, the government believes Lopez is a well-trusted cartel member. He was seen taken packages out of the building several times before his arrest on Aug. 13, the court papers said.

Footage shows the tunnel walls lined with wooden planks. (Homeland Security Investigations and Yuma Sector Border Patrol)

Lopez is being held in federal detention without bond because he is considered a flight risk, according to court documents.

His attorney, Paul A. Ramos, did not respond to a request for comment.

The use of tunnels for drug trafficking has been a major issue for decades and has been brought up by opponents of the proposed border wall, who say tunnels will help smugglers circumvent it.

In 2016, authorities busted a nearly half-mile tunnel running between Otay Mesa, California, and Tijuana, Mexico.

HSI has a tunnel task force and the Customs and Border Protection agency has a drug smuggling tunnel detection and technology program, all to tackle the nearly 200 cross-border tunnels that have been discovered since 1990.

Get the latest news from the world of crime