Law Enforcement allowed tunnel to be built under border
Since February, U.S. and Canadian law enforcement secretly watched drug smugglers build a tunnel across the border. Using shovels, more than 1,000 2-by-6's and rebar, the smugglers built a 360-foot-long tunnel complete with ventilation and electricity. Wednesday afternoon, their elaborate operation came to an end when U.S. federal agents arrested three men exiting the tunnel in Whatcom County just east of the Lynden-Aldergrove crossing.
They face federal charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to import marijuana. The three are being held in a federal jail in SeaTac. More charges may follow. The tunnel started in a Quonset hut - a large metal shed - at 26717 Zero Ave. just inside Canada. The property is owned by Francis Devandra Raj, 30, one of the three men arrested. It stretched under the border and emerged in the living room of 151 E. Boundary Road north of Lynden. The homeowners are listed as Raman L. and Kusum B. Patel, according to the Whatcom County Assessor's Web site.
The tunnel was under construction for more than a year and was big enough for a person to walk through, hunched over. The entrances were 6 feet by 6 feet and the entire tunnel was reinforced on all sides by rebar and wood, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office news release. The people constructing it put together a pulley and winch system to lift the dirt out and move it north or south to one of the openings. The tunnel was completed earlier this month.
U.S. federal agents installed surveillance cameras and listening devices in the East Boundary Road home earlier this month and monitored action in the tunnel constantly.
About 200 pounds of marijuana was seized as part of the investigation and other suspects are being investigated and watched, according to U.S. and Canadian officials. Authorities said the tunnel will be sealed so it can't be used any longer.