CALEXICO, California – Augustin Enrique Cruz, the owner of the house in Calexico where a subterranean drug tunnel exit was discovered , was arrested in Tucson, Arizona and charged with various narcotics trafficking, money laundering and tunnel-related crimes.
Enrique Cruz, also known as “Tinky,” was taken into custody by agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations and is expected to be arraigned in the District of Arizona before his transfer to the Southern District of California.
Yesterday, about 100 federal, state and local law enforcement officials seized the tunnel following an extensive, multi-agency investigation. In total, agents have arrested five people including Enrique Cruz and seized almost 3,000 pounds of marijuana. Agents continued to investigate the 415-yard tunnel which originated in El Sarape restaurant in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. Also yesterday, U.S. Border Patrol agents stood guard at the tunnel house.
According to a criminal complaint, Enrique Cruz traveled from Arizona to the Calexico area on multiple occasions in November and December 2014 to look for property that would serve as the exit point of a tunnel from Mexicali in Baja California, Mexico. In January 2014, Cruz purchased the property at 902 E. Third Street in Calexico. It is the first time in this district that drug traffickers are known to have purchased property and constructed a house for the sole purpose of concealing the exit of a drug tunnel.
To finance the purchase of the parcel, Cruz’s coconspirators arranged for various cash pickups in Arizona and California. Cruz also met with the title company for the closing. The parcel was placed in Enrique Cruz’s name on July 1, 2015.
In addition to purchasing the property, Enrique Cruz and his coconspirators hired local contractors to build a new house. Based on federal wiretaps, the construction of the residence was expected to cost $86,000. Enrique Cruz’s boss directed the contractor to leave a space in the foundation for a floor safe, which was intended to be the exit point for the tunnel. According to court documents, Enrique Cruz rented a walk-behind saw and concrete blade on January 27, 2016, to widen the exit point of the tunnel.
In the fall of 2015, Cruz and his coconspirators traveled to Calexico to meet with the contractor to make payments for the construction of the new residence and construction subsequently began. Throughout October 2015 and November 2015, crews continued with the construction of the residence which was completed in late December 2015.
Unbeknownst to the alleged traffickers, the purchase of the property and construction of the house and tunnel were completed under the watchful eye of Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) agents in Calexico.
Agents learned from monitoring court-authorized wiretaps of phones and from surveillance that Enrique Cruz and his coconspirators began smuggling narcotics through the tunnel on or after February 28, 2016. Agents intercepted several calls in which Enrique Cruz and his father discussed the conditions inside the tunnel.
According to the complaint, Enrique Cruz also arranged for the purchase of multiple vehicles that were used to transport marijuana. from the 3rd Street newly built residence to the secondary stash residence at 1056 Horizon Street in Calexico and another warehouse at 260 Avenida Campillo, Suite A, also in Calexico.
On March 7, 2015, HSI agents seized approximately 1,350 pounds of marijuana that was smuggled through the tunnel inside the Third Street residence, transported initially to the Horizon residence, and eventually to the Avenida Campillo warehouse before it landed in a Los Angeles warehouse – all under the eyes of law enforcement.
On March 23, 2016, multiple search warrants were executed by multiple federal agencies, led by HSI Special Agents. A tunnel was located inside the living room of the newly built Third Street residence. In addition, approximately 1,532 pounds of marijuana were found inside the Horizon stash location. Two individuals, Joel Duarte Medina and Manuel Gallegos Jiminez, were arrested in connection with the tunnel.
Duarte Medina, who was arrested at the Horizon stash location on March 23, 2016, and Gallegos Jiminez, who was arrested inside the Third Street residence where the tunnel was seized, were arraigned today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter C. Lewis in federal court in El Centro, California. They were charged with conspiracy to import marijuana (21 U.S.C. 952,960, 963, conspiracy to distribute (21 U.S.C 841, 846) and Conspiracy to Maintain Drug Premises (21 U.S.C. 856(a)(1).
Another defendant, Eva Duarte De Medina, was also arrested in Arizona in connection with this tunnel. She was charged with conspiracy to import marijuana (21 U.S.C. 952,960, 963, conspiracy to distribute (21 U.S.C 841, 846) and conspiracy to maintain drug premises (21 U.S.C. 856(a)(1). She was arraigned yesterday in the District of Arizona and was expected to be transferred to the Southern District of California for prosecution.