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ICE task force shuts down 'longest drug tunnel ever’ in Nogales

Three were arrested, plus half pound of heroin and more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana recovered.
Three were arrested, plus half pound of heroin and more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana recovered.

A federal task force – the Nogales Tunnel Task Force - led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), shut down a 481-foot drug tunnel in Nogales, Monday night – “the longest such tunnel ever discovered in the border city,” according to a release from ICE.

USA Today reported on Feb. 14, that although Nogales is considered the epicenter for cross-border drug tunnels with around 100 found since 1990, the one discovered this week “tops them all.”

The task force also recovered more than 640 pounds of marijuana and a half pound of heroin, plus arrested three men during their latest operation.

Jose Solorzano-Flores, 41, and Jose Mario Armenta-Valdez, 41, both of Mexico, and Jesus Alberto Ramirez-Valencia, 22, of Nogales, Ariz., were charged with drug conspiracy charges in a federal complaint. The men made their initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Tucson Tuesday afternoon.

The tunnel ran between two private residences, one in Nogales, Ariz., and the other in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.

Agents were able to scoop up an additional 590 pounds of marijuana after stopping a truck they saw leaving the residence at the Ariz. end of the tunnel.

"This drug trafficking organization clearly invested significant time and resources into constructing a tunnel of this size, in an attempt to move both marijuana and hard drugs onto the streets of the United States," said Eric Balliet, assistant special agent in charge of HSI Nogales.

The tunnel was accessible by shafts at both ends of its 411 foot length, and was approximately 2 feet wide by 3 feet tall, complete with “wood shoring, electric lighting and fans to circulate air inside.”

Agents discovered the tunnel after receiving information that the private residence in Nogales was involved with drug smuggling.

Those involved with the Nogales Tunnel Task Force include agents with ICE, the Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Nogales police, and Mexican authorities.

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