Filed Under:  Border Issues, Border Tunnels, San Diego

El Cajon man sentenced in drug tunnel case

December 19th 2011   ·   0 Comments

SAN DIEGO — An El Cajon man who pleaded guilty in a case involving a cross-border drug-smuggling tunnel discovered on Thanksgiving Day 2010 was sentenced Monday to 14 years in prison, federal officials said.

In November 2010, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents investigated a warehouse on Marconi Drive in Otay Mesa that was where a drug tunnel from Tijuana surfaced. — John Gibbins

Victor Omar Valladares Real, 26, earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute about 27,600 pounds of marijuana, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy said. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Marilyn L. Huff.

Another defendant, Daniel Navarro Chavez, 45, of Perris in Riverside County, was sentenced on Nov. 28 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana. He was ordered to serve 15 years, eight months in prison.

Federal prosecutors have described Navarro as a key transportation manager and distributor involving the tunnel discovered on Thanksgiving Day and another one found about three weeks earlier, both in Otay Mesa.

According to court documents, Homeland Security agents observed both men at a warehouse on Marconi Drive on Nov. 25, 2010, saw a tractor-trailer being loaded with marijuana, and saw Valladares escort the vehicle to Chula Vista, where it was given to Jose Hernandez.

Hernandez, 56, of El Monte in Los Angeles County, was stopped at the Interstate 15 U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Temecula. He told agents that the truck was carrying watermelons. Agents found 2,020 packages of marijuana in cardboard boxes, court records said. Hernandez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 27.

About 10 people are being prosecuted in connection with the two tunnels.

A version of this column originally appeared in www.signonsandiego.com.

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