On Friday, five people have been charged after 97 migrants were found in a Houston house in what is an alleged smuggling operation, federal prosecutors said on Monday.
According to the Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, the five charged by criminal complaint on Saturday are all living in the county illegally. They are from Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras.
After receiving a report of a possible kidnapping, the Houston police found 97 people inside the two-story house. None of them have the authorization to be in the U.S., officials said.
They were kept in two rooms with deadbolts on the doors to prevent any escape.
Marina Garcia-Diaz, 22; Henry Licona-Larios, 31; Kevin Licona-Lopez, 25; Marco Baca-Perez, 30; and Marcelo Garcia-Palacios, 21, are all in custody and are facing one count each of harboring migrants into the United States, according to online court records.
The house where the migrants were kept is described as a “stash house” in court documents.
On Friday, a person called the Houston police and reported a kidnapping. They said they paid $11,000 to have a relative smuggled into the U.S. from Honduras. However, they were told to pay thousands more to have the relative released.
According to the complaint, the suspects told that if they did not pay, the relative would be killed.
At lease one person inside the “stash house” was told if money was not paid, he would be out in “four pieces of wood,” pertaining to a coffin.
Attorneys listed as representing those charged either did not immediately return requests for comment Monday night or declined to comment.