Friends Say Border Tunnel Suspect is Innocent

Glennys Rodriguez, 73, is accused of operating two tunnels along the U.S.-Mexico border used to smuggle drugs

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Glennys Rodriguez, 73, appeared in federal court Wednesday. She is charged in the case of two drug smuggling tunnels discovered in Otay Mesa last week. NBC 7’s Rory Devine reports.

    Family and friends of a 73-year-old San Diego woman accused of running two tunnels along the U.S.-Mexico border attended the suspect’s federal court appearance Wednesday and said there’s no way she could possibly be involved in the alleged crime.

    “I just really believe very deep in my heart this is nothing but a mistake,” the suspect’s friend and neighbor, Cathy Welsh, told NBC 7. “The truth will come out. There’s no way a person like her can be involved in this. She’s innocent.”

    Glennys Rodriguez, a resident of Chula Vista, was arrested Friday after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents discovered two tunnels in Otay Mesa, one at 10005 Marconi Drive and the other at 10145 Via de la Amistad.

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    Both tunnels were found in an industrial area, just a few hundred feet from the U.S.-Mexico border, and may have been used to smuggle drugs across the border.

    Rodriguez was arrested in connection with the tunnels, accused of overseeing the underground operations.

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    On Wednesday, Rodriguez’s attorney, Lupe Rodriguez, asked the judge to release his client on $75,000 bond. The judge granted the attorney’s request, meaning Rodriguez could be released on bond as early as next week. She will have to refrain from traveling to Mexico.

    Her attorney told NBC 7 Rodriguez will have to put up her mobile home in Chula Vista as collateral and have two adults co-sign for the rest of the bond. He expects to have that paperwork filed within a week.

    Rodriguez has been officially charged with “conspiracy to maintain premises involved in drugs,” her attorney said.

    Last week, CBP agents said the 600-foot tunnel found on Via de la Amistad was covered up by fake flooring. The other tunnel on Marconi Drive – deemed much more sophisticated by agents – was also concealed.

    Despite the charges, Rodriguez’s friends maintain her innocence.

    “She’s a very good-hearted person and a hard worker,” one neighbor told NBC 7. “We see her going to work every day.”

    Last week, NBC 7 learned that Rodriguez owns a company called “G&R Services” in Chula Vista that provides immigration and tax services.

    Her neighbors said they have never suspected Rodriguez of any criminal activity and never see anyone other than her own children going in or out of her mobile home.

    “She’s a very wonderful person. I don’t believe it at all. It’s not possible for her to do such a thing,” her neighbor added.

    Friends told NBC 7 that Rodriguez often invited them into her home for different special occasions and spent a lot of time with her family.

    Meanwhile, officials have also charged a second defendant in connection with the cross-border tunnel located at Via de la Amistad.

    Tijuana resident Gilberto Quezada-Madrid, 26, is facing a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for his alleged involvement with the tunnel.

    Quezada-Madrid made his first appearance in federal court on Monday. He’s scheduled to be back in court Thursday.

    According to a court documents, agents with Homeland Security Investigations have spotted Quezada-Madrid near suspected tunnel locations in San Diego and Tijuana in surveillance dating back to 2013. His arrest was part of a five-month probe.

    Most recently, on Mar. 31, agents saw the suspect at a warehouse on Via de la Amistad. The next day, agents discovered the concealed tunnel inside the warehouse and learned the entry point was inside a mini storage facility called Mini Bodegas de la Frontera in Tijuana, about 800 feet south of the international border.

    Agents said the passageway was equipped with lighting, a crude rail system and wooden trusses. A pulley system had also been installed at the tunnel’s U.S. entrance presumably to hoist drugs up into the warehouse on Via de la Amistad. The warehouse was filled with children’s toys, televisions and other merchandise similar to items found in a warehouse linked to a smuggling tunnel uncovered in San Diego in 2013, court documents said.

    The Marconi Drive tunnel stretched for more than 700 yards and was equipped with a multi-tiered electric rail system and an array of ventilation equipment, according to investigators.

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