Five suspects face federal charges after police found nearly 100 undocumented migrants involved in an alleged human smuggling incident inside a residence in Houston.
Prosecutors charged Marina Garcia-Diaz, Henry Licona-Larios, Kevin Licona-Lopez, Marco Baca-Perez, and Marcelo Garcia-Palacios, all noncitizens from Central America, in connection with the case for having allegedly harbored, concealed, and shielded 97 aliens for gain, the Justice Department announced Monday.
The investigation began after a woman, who said she had paid several thousands of dollars for her brother to be smuggled into the United States, reported that he had been kidnapped, according to the Justice Department.
The smugglers allegedly demanded additional money before they would release her brother, whom they threatened to kill, and told one of the migrants he would be put in “4 pieces of wood” if they were not paid, according to the Justice Department.
Upon entering the residence, investigators found U.S. currency and ledgers containing names of the migrants, as well as human smuggling payment records, court documents alleged.
“The rooms holding the [undocumented noncitizens] had deadbolts on the door facing outside, preventing escape from the inside of the room,” the documents continued. “Multiple material witnesses identified the defendants as those conducting the smuggling operation.”
Houston Police Department Assistant Chief Daryn Edwards subsequently told reporters that investigators did not expect to encounter so many people.
“It was a big surprise when we got in the house and saw what we saw,” Edwards said.
At the time, neighbors had not shared any information to indicate that anything suspicious was happening, he added.
Investigators suspected a number of the victims have positive COVID-19 cases, some with fever symptoms and others having reported a loss of taste and smell, Edwards said, adding that Health Department officials set about testing them immediately.
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- ^ HOUSTON POLICE FIND 90 PEOPLE INSIDE RESIDENCE IN POSSIBLE HUMAN SMUGGLING BUST (www.washingtonexaminer.com)
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