Drug Smugglers Tunnel Directly Into Arizona Parking Spaces

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Video Screenshot / ABC News

This concrete patch is the gateway to a tunnel underneath the Nogales, Ariz. border fence

Forget the high costs typically associated with getting drugs into the U.S. from Mexico. Some smugglers are sneaking their stock in for just 25 cents.

International Street in Nogales, Ariz. runs directly along the border wall. It’s a popular shopping district and meeting point for family members from both countries. So, it’s understandable why the city of Nogales installed parking meters on the street to make an extra profit. But it turns out the drug smugglers were the ones profiting.

(PHOTOS: Drug Smuggling Submarines)

The smugglers dug tunnels under the fence leading directly to one of the 18 parking spots lining the street. They cut clean rectangular holes in the pavement large enough to feed their stash through. Then, for just a quarter, the smugglers’ U.S. cohorts parked their false-bottomed cars right along the border fence and waited – or pretended to go shopping – while their cars were loaded up with drugs.

After the exchange was complete, the concrete patch would be replaced, the only evidence of the drug trade being small seams in the pavement. When this innovative plan was unearthed, Border Patrol agents found 16 separate tunnels underneath the border leading to the parking spots on the single stretch of International Street.

(PHOTOS: Inside Mexico’s Drug Tunnels)

The patches have since been cemented back into the roadway. And the city of Nogales, acting on the recommendation of the Department of Homeland Security, has removed all 18 parking meters along the street. Parking is now prohibited within 60 feet of the border fence. The city stands to lose $8,500 in revenue and fines from the parking meters. Judging by the extent of this smuggling operation, we’d bet much of that revenue was from the drug runners, anyway.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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