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Restaurant in Mexicali Was a Cover for an Elaborate Drug Smuggling Tunnel

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The tunnel led straight from the restaurant to a home in California

Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

If you're going to smuggle pot across an international border, a restaurant front can conveniently double as a munchie spot. According to KTLA, narcotics traffickers purchased property and built a house in Calexico, Cali. to served as the receiving end of a 415-yard tunnel that was used to smuggle drugs into the United States. The three-bedroom house — which cost $86,000 to build — was located just 300 yards from the international border between the U.S. and Mexico. The front room contained a hole measuring three feet in diameter that led down 32 feet to the tunnel. The sophisticated tunnel included a rail system, lighting, and electricity. On the other end of the tunnel was a restaurant in Mexicali, Mexico that served as a cover for the drug smuggling operation. At this point it's safe to say the restaurant is now closed for business.

Four people were arrested after a raid on Wednesday led authorities directly to the tunnel and to 1,532 pounds of marijuana. Joel Duarte Medina and Manuel Gallegos Jiminez were arrested in Calexico and their counterparts, Eva Duarte De Medina and her daughter Marcia Manuela Duarte-Medina, were arrested in Arizona the day before for allegedly purchasing the land. The group was charged with various drug trafficking charges, tunnel-related offenses, and money laundering.

Neighbors were shocked to learn of the home's true purpose. Juan Urrea, who lives one block away, expressed his surprise, "This is a peaceful neighborhood. You just don't hear about stuff like this here. Crazy. Just Crazy," he told reporters. While another neighbor, Yolanda Sanchez, was hoping the new house would add value to surrounding properties. She stated, "We were happy because they built this house. I would see a guy and a lady go in once in a while, but only for a few minutes." She described the scene the morning of the raid, "And then this morning we wake up with a huge, big bang. Helicopter. Police. I got out of my house and I said, 'What's going on!' And we find out it's a tunnel."

Tunnels are not the only way drug traffickers have attempted to smuggle drugs across the border. In 2014, a Mexican drug cartel used empty fake watermelons in an attempt to smuggle weed into the U.S. Although they almost got away with it, the money was discovered after the watermelons were scanned at a second U.S. customs checkpoint.

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