A 28-year-old man who washed up on the shore of a canal in California with dozens of pounds of cocaine pleaded guilty to distribution charges on Wednesday—but not before his arrest led authorities to a 150-foot-long underwater tunnel used to smuggle drugs from Mexico to the US, the AP reports.
Evelio Padilla-Zepeda, a Honduran national, apparently thought he would be smuggling people from a house in Mexicali, Mexico across the boarder to the US. But when he arrived at the house, Padilla-Zepeda was surprised to learn that he would instead be transporting roughly $1.8 million worth of cocaine into California.
According to the local NBC affiliate, that's where Border Patrol found him, walking along the All-American Canal near Calexico, California, decked out in a full scuba wetsuit, with a breathing tank, a "rebreather" designed to hide air bubbles from the water's surface, and 55 pounds of cocaine, gift-wrapped in Toy Story wrapping paper.
After Padilla-Zepeda's arrest, investigators discovered the underwater tunnel that ran from the Southern California canal, across the border, and ended at a house in Mexicali. Apparently, smugglers would take the drugs down the dry, Mexico side of the tunnel, then drop the stash near a hidden opening where one lucky mule would pick it up, strap on a scuba mask, and start swimming.
No word yet on who built the tunnel or how many people are involved in the operation. For now, Padilla-Zepeda faces up to 20 years in prison.
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