Friday, 4 June 1999

Officials to seal Naco drug tunnel found last week

By Ignacio Ibarra
The Arizona Daily Star

NACO, Ariz. - The cross-border drug tunnel shut down by law enforcement officials here last week is scheduled to be sealed later today, federal officials said.

The 10-foot-deep tunnel links a mobile home near the end of Hogan Street with the back yard of a Mexican house more than 200 feet to the southeast.

Investigators say the tunnel may have operated for several years, serving as a conduit for the shipment of marijuana, cocaine and money between the United States and Mexico.

Mexican officials say the tunnel had not been used for several months at the time it was discovered.
The Mexican entrance to the tunnel has been resealed with wood and covered with dirt - in the same condition the tunnel's builders left it.

Ed Hall, a spokesman for the FBI in Phoenix, said the entrance to the tunnel would be sealed today with several large metal plates weighing ``a couple of thousand pounds.''

Steve Martinez, a Tucson FBI agent, said yesterday at the tunnel scene that the closure of the tunnel isn't permanent yet because it may still have to be accessed by defense and prosecution attorneys, as well as investigators, as the case progresses.

A federal grand jury indicted 13 people in connection with the case. Mexican police handed over the alleged leader of the drug transportation network, William B. Dillon, to U.S. officials Tuesday.

The Naco tunnel may ultimately be sealed in concrete, the fate that befell similar tunnels discovered in the 1990s in Douglas and Nogales.