Nogales Tunnel Task Force shuts down drug tunnel in backyard shed

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NOGALES, Ariz. — Federal authorities shut down a completed drug smuggling tunnel Tuesday night in the backyard shed of a Nogales residence, following a multi-agency investigation by the Nogales Tunnel Task Force.

Members of the task force, which is led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), developed information that a drug smuggling tunnel was located at a residence located approximately one and a half miles north of the international border in the Nogales city limits. When they responded to the house, authorities discovered the tunnel entrance in a backyard shed.

The crude, hand-dug tunnel is approximately 52 feet long and roughly two feet wide by three feet tall, with some wood shoring. It runs from the shed to a nearby underground sewage line that ultimately crosses the international boundary. No people or drugs were found inside the passageway, although authorities seized eight pounds of white heroin, three pounds of marijuana and more than $1,400 in U.S. currency inside the house.

No arrests have yet been made in the case, which remains under investigation by the Nogales Tunnel Task Force.

The Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) is an HSI-led, multi-agency U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiative to identify, disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations that seek to exploit vulnerabilities along U.S. borders. There are currently 34 BEST units deployed across the country, covering major seaports and southern and northern border regions. BEST units are composed of more than 750 law enforcement officers from more than 100 federal, state, local, tribal, and foreign law enforcement and intelligence resources.

The BEST Nogales Tunnel Task Force is composed of full-time members from HSI; U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Border Patrol; the Nogales Police Department; the Santa Cruz County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force; and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The BEST Nogales Tunnel Task Force is responsible for identifying, investigating and eliminating illicit subterranean tunnels in one of the nation's busiest border areas with Mexico and combating the Transnational Criminal Organizations that finance, build and use them.

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