NOGALES, Ariz. – Immigration agents discovered a 13-foot drug tunnel stretching from the Mexican border to a metered parking space in Arizona, where vehicles with holes cut in the bottom would park and take marijuana from people inside the underground space.
"It was pretty brazen," said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Vincent Picard. "Right in the middle of downtown Nogales."
The tunnel begins directly against the border fence on the Mexican side and leads to an opening 10 inches in diameter on a street in downtown Nogales.
Agents uncovered the tunnel Monday after seeing a cylindrical bundle fall out of a van.
After they began chasing the van, the driver escaped on foot. The passenger, who was not identified, was arrested and will face federal charges of possession of narcotics with the intent to distribute and re-entry after deportation of an aggravated felon.
About 2,200 pounds of pot were seized from the van.
Picard said it's unclear how long the tunnel had been operating or how many drugs were smuggled through it, although he said it likely wasn't very long because it was in such a conspicuous location.
Mexican authorities have secured the tunnel entrance in Mexico, and the Nogales city workers covered the tunnel exit with a steel plate.
The U.S. Border Patrol will guard the tunnel until Mexican officials fill it with concrete, likely soon.
Agents have found dozens of drug tunnels in Nogales since the 1990s. In September, Border Patrol agents found a 3-by-3-foot drug smuggling tunnel tied into the city's storm drain.