CALEXICO, Calif. (AP) -- Authorities in Mexico arrested four men following the discovery of an underground, cross-border tunnel that led from an auto repair shop in Mexicali.
The tunnel, discovered late last week by city crews digging trenches in Calexico, was more than four feet high and zigzagged more than 250 yards beneath the border. It was equipped with lighting and ventilation, and was reinforced with wood, said Ricardo Sandoval of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
It's the first tunnel found in Imperial County, about 100 miles east of San Diego, and among a half-dozen discovered along the California border since January 2002.
Mexican police said the auto repair shop's manager told them the tunnel had been used to smuggle drugs and people. However, U.S. authorities said it appeared the tunnel was still under construction and had never been used.
Joaquin Mandujano Lazaro, 24, and Jose Guadalupe Prado Mendoza, 55, were arrested Saturday by Mexican authorities and told police they were guarding the tunnel. Prado was armed with a handgun, according to a statement from Baja California's State Preventive Police.
Guillermo Gonzalez Liera, known as "El Loco," the auto repair shop's manager, also was taken into custody. Gonzalez said the tunnel had been operating for most of the year and was used to smuggle drugs and people, according to a statement from police. Gonzalez said he had hired Mandujano and Prado to dig the tunnel, police said.
A fourth suspect, Raul Solano Zepeda, 27, was arrested as he came to open the shop. He told police he owned it.
A drug-trafficking organization has been linked to the tunnel, Aldo Espinosa, director of the State Preventive Police, said during a news conference in Tijuana, Mexico. He declined to name the organization, citing the ongoing investigation,
U.S. officials said the north end of the tunnel ended beneath a house and had not breached the surface.
"To the best of our knowledge, it has never been used, because we don't see an exit," said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Agents who entered the tunnel found six or seven buckets of dirt, "which led us to believe that it is still under construction," Mack said.