The architect of some of the Sinaloa drug cartel’s cross-border tunnels that were used to smuggle large amounts of marijuana into the United States has been quietly extradited to San Diego. Jose Sanchez Villalobos, 58, was allegedly the highest-ranking cartel member who built the tunnel systems and was indicted on 13 counts in 2012 amid a major effort to build cartel tunnels along San Diego’s border with Mexico, according to documents filed in San Diego federal court. Villalobos—whose tunnel-building effort came under the leadership of Sinaloa drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman—pleaded not guilty to two charges of helping finance and construct two tunnels. Dozens of tunnels have reportedly been found in California over the last couple of decades.
Investigators seized 32 tons of marijuana from one tunnel in 2011, which was discovered 40 feet underground with an electric rail system and an elevator. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration called it “the most elaborate smuggling tunnel uncovered along the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.” Authorities said Villalobos also determined who was able to smuggle marijuana through the tunnels and charged fees to drug traffickers to gain access to the passageways.