TUCSON- The escape of drug kingpin "El Chapo" Guzman brought to light how sophisticated tunnels pose a "deep" problem for authorities, but they're nothing new along our southern border.
According to NBC News, from 1990 to 2014, 169 drug tunnels have been found along the border, with the first cross-border tunnel found in Douglas, Arizona, 25 years ago. More than 100 of them in Nogales, including the latest tunnel that was connected to a residential sewer line. Inside the latest tunnel, investigators found bundles of pot coming from Mexico.
“El Chapo” Guzman is known as the pioneer of tunnels and his first one was the one built here in Douglas.
Retired Federal Agent Grant Murray was the lead investigator in the Douglas drug tunnel and also searched for Guzman back in the 90’s.
“So in 25 years, technology for Guzman is basically the same," Murray said. "The tunnels are going longer.”
The Douglas tunnel was about the length of a football field, but Chapo's latest tunnel was a mile long.
Murray explained the similarities between the two as he compared them on a TV monitor. “What you're looking at here is the opening of the tunnel on the floor in the building on the U.S. side in Douglas, Arizona. If you look at the opening at the [Mexico] prison tunnel, it's basically the same.”
Even more similarities between the tunnels include the lighting systems. “That's an electrical conduit coming from Mexico, which was used to put light bulbs. And according to reports on the prison tunnel, they also had conduit with lighting.”
The Douglas tunnel is known as Chapo's $1.5 million 'James Bond Tunnel'. It was complete with a hydraulic system that raised the floor where a pool table sat. Underneath, a passage way from a house in Agua Prieta, to a warehouse in Douglas.
Murray added the tunnels had specific purposes; “to escape from prison and in Douglas to smuggle drugs.”
A year after Murray and his partner first broke through the tunnel in Douglas, they ended up in Los Angeles taking down part of Chapo's organization where they found his ledger. He said Chapo was responsible for smuggling, “27,000 kilos of cocaine, and almost $80 million in US dollars, all within a seven month period.”
As for finding Chapo again, “I believe they found him once, they’ll find him again.”
Murray said it took about a year to build the tunnel in Douglas and that's about how long people are saying it took to build Chapo’s getaway tunnel.