What seemed like an ordinary home in Tijuana, Mexico, ended up housing a huge secret. A part of the house was hidden from everyone, and was something that seemingly came out of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” What could a normal-looking house be hiding? And was the secret an illegal one?
When the authorities got wind of the secret, they went to investigate. What they ended up finding made their jaws drop.
It’s Just An Ordinary House
On the outside, the house showed nothing out of the ordinary. Even inside it was your stereotypical family home, consisting of a living room, bedrooms, bathrooms, and a kitchen. What is there to suspect?
Aside from being in a not-so-great part of Mexico, there was no reason for the authorities to suspect the homeowners were doing anything wrong or hiding anything from them or the rest of the public. But what they found was far from ordinary.
Tijuana, Mexico, The Start
Tijuana is a border city in Mexico and is the largest city of both Baja California and the Baja Peninsula. Meaning, the population is quite large and it is no stranger to crime. The Tijuana Cartel is a well-known crime organization, after all.
From 2007-2010 the city experienced an unusually high violent crime rate, everything from gang violence to human and drug trafficking. Could the secret be part of the crime-related issues going on around the city?
The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe With A Secret
Think of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” and you have the mysterious wardrobe that was found by Mexican police. If you’re not familiar, the fictional story follows four siblings who get teleported from one world to another through a mystical wardrobe.
What if we told you that someone felt like making fiction a reality? We’re not talking someone role-playing Lucy and pretending their stuffed satyr is real. We’re talking something that will keep the cops sleeping with one eye open for the foreseeable future.
The Morning Of The Search
People in town knew about the wardrobe, but what it was hiding inside was a whole other mystery no one could figure out. Too bad mysteries have a way of coming to the light eventually.
It was morning when the house was surrounded by authorities. The low-key part of town had never seen so many officers at once. That meant that there was definitely something illegal in the house. There would be no other reason for them all to be there.
Then The Officers Began Their Search
The officers entered the home and started their search. When one came across the wardrobe in one of the bedrooms he didn’t think twice about it. What’s strange about a closet-type thing being in a bedroom? People need a place to put their clothing!
Then he opened it, and what he found was not exactly clothing. There was nothing inside the wardrobe — it was completely empty! Why have an empty wardrobe in an otherwise full house? It didn’t make sense.
They Were In New Territory
When it comes to secret passageways, people usually picture outdoor tunnels that are located underneath sheds, or maybe even storm shelters. But inside wardrobes in a house? That’s new territory. What could possibly warrant having a tunnel inside a house?
Something like that is just begging to be looked into by the police. A hidden passage screams secrecy. Only thing is, the cops didn’t find a tunnel exactly. It was something else altogether, and you’ll never guess what.
They Never Expected To Find This
When the officer opened the wardrobe he wasn’t all that surprised to see a hole in the ground. They were tipped off that there was a tunnel located somewhere in the house, after all. What he wasn’t prepared for was the elevator.
An elevator going down into the Earth? Yeah, they weren’t expecting to find anything of the sort. There were even switches installed into the wall. So now the question begs, where does the elevator lead to?
And Down They Went
The makeshift elevator was large enough to accommodate eight to ten people at a time. So the officers huddled in, pressed some of the buttons, and down they went. You have to give the officers major props, many people would not get into an old elevator that they found inside a weird wardrobe.
They had no idea what they were going to see once the elevator doors opened. But the officers were not expecting to see this.
The Beginning Of The Tunnel Was Tiny
The doors opened and in front of them was a tiny opening that they would have to army crawl through. It got a little better once they got past the original claustrophobic part of the journey.
The tiny entrance involved a harsh climb but turned into a five-feet by three-feet tunnel that they soon realized stretched well over 500 feet long. It was large enough for a man to walk through, and so they started their journey.
They Wound Up In California
The exit of the tunnel ended up being a bit north in San Diego, California and was small enough that a simple trash can could cover the hole entirely. It was located in the back of a pallet warehouse, which wasn’t entirely unusual. Smugglers often buy legitimate businesses to disguise their real money-making operations.
Now that they found the smuggling route, all the authorities needed to do was catch the people behind the trafficking ring with drugs.
Now The Waiting Game
So, they waited. And waited. And they waited some more. Finally, the officers spotted a truck heading toward central San Diego. Knowing they needed probable cause to search the vehicle, they, you guessed it, waited.
It wasn’t until they saw the truck being loaded with boxes that they finally took action. Lucky that they did because the truck was filled to the top with drugs. If the authorities hadn’t stopped them, those drugs would have been across the border in no time.
Inside the truck, the officers found an impressive assortment of illegal narcotics. In total it contained one ton of white powder and more than seven tons of other substances. Granted, this was not the largest tally of drugs that the authorities had ever confiscated before, but it was still an impressive amount.
Now the officials had the secret tunnel to smuggle the drugs and the actual drugs that were being transported to Mexico. All that was left was to question the suspected smuggler.
Time To Make Some Arrests
When everything was said and done, authorities ended up arresting six people — one American, two Cubans, and three Mexicans. In large busts such as this, it is common for people to be working on either side of the border.
Eventually, border patrol agents released photos of the tunnel to the public, along with details of its construction. We’re not sure if that was smart. Wouldn’t other smugglers try to recreate the tunnel for their own purposes?
The Tunnel Was Pretty Advanced
Authorities could not believe how elaborate the tunnel was. The smugglers had thought of everything that could go wrong and everything that you would need during an underground journey. They had installed electricity, a ventilation system, and even water pumps in case of flooding. Probably not something you have to worry about in Southern California or Mexico, but better safe than sorry.
What made the tunnel even more remarkable was that they constructed it without machines. The entire thing was dug by hand.
The Tunnel Was Quiet And Discreet
For months this tunnel served as a way to effectively smuggle tens of millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs to and from Mexico. The authorities were none the wiser, mainly due to its location.
The smugglers were smart with this one aspect. They constructed the tunnel in a very busy part of San Diego with a hidden entrance in a quiet part of Tijuana. Who would think to look in either one of those locations? They made it nearly impossible to find.
These Tunnels Are Not Uncommon
Unfortunately, tunnels such as this are not all that uncommon among smugglers. Since 2006, authorities have found 13 similar situations, and while the police were monitoring the pallet warehouse for a year prior to making their bust, there’s no telling how long these tunnels have been in use.
For all the authorities know, the tunnels could be part of El Chapo’s empire, the escape artist extraordinaire. The drug lord loved his intricate tunnel systems, after all!
Well-constructed tunnels were all part of a smooth-running operation for Joaquin Guzman Loera, better known as El Chapo. In 2014, authorities released photographs of some of the more intricate escape tunnels that he had in his various hideouts. They were nothing less than ingenious.
It’s no wonder he was able to escape officers for as long as he did. El Chapo and his men were even able to construct one underneath his shower cell, offering him a quick escape from prison.
Super Tunnels Are Being Built
Sophisticated tunnels, much like the ones constructed by El Chapo, are becoming more common among smugglers. In 2013, a “super tunnel” was located, bringing with it a totally new angle to smuggling routes.
The super tunnel was the length of six football fields and had reinforced walls, lighting, ventilation, and an automated track system for easy transport. Smugglers could quickly drop the drugs into a cart that would automatically go down the tunnel. They no longer had to personally walk the tunnel.
Money, Narcotics, And Illegal Immigrants
A tunnel such as the super tunnel is not easy to construct. It can cost up to hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars. Then again, one successful run and the tunnels kind of pay for themselves. But authorities have found that these tunnels have other uses, too.
They can be used to provide passage for illegal immigrants. Taking care of two problems at once, these immigrants sometimes offer to transport narcotics in exchange for passage.
Shutting Down The Tunnels Is A Process
Since 1990, authorities have uncovered 115 tunnels connecting Mexico to the United States, with 11 being post-September 11, 2001. After the 9/11 attacks, extra security measures were put in place to sway any illegal activity. The upgraded airport systems made it so drug traffickers had no other choice but to start digging tunnels. That or give up the trade altogether.
Fortunately, for every tunnel that is discovered, authorities have been able to find and shut down two more unfinished ones.