UPDATED 10:39 AM PT – Wednesday, May 5, 2021
Five people are facing federal charges in an alleged human smuggling operation in Houston, Texas On Monday, the DOJ announced the charges after Houston Police found nearly 100 illegal immigrants held in a house.
“When we got into the house, we realized that there were over 90 people inside and we immediately began to assess any kind of a special threat after that,” stated D.B. Edwards, Houston Police Assistant Chief. “Once we isolated that, we wanted to make sure we rendered any kind of medical care so we had HFD (Houston Fire Department) with us.”
The criminal complaint charges Marina Garcia-Diaz, Henry Licona-Larios, Kevin Licona-Lopez, Marco Baca-Perez and Marcelo Garcia-Palacios who are all within the ages of 21 through 31.
Authorities said the migrants were locked in two separate rooms of the residence and were dressed only in their undergarments. Police added, there was a possible COVID-19 outbreak among the group.
“We are in a pandemic and we do have some people in the house that are symptomatic,” Edwards stated. “So, we’ve already had some people in the house tell us they’re not able to smell and not able to taste, and we did have some people with fever.”
According to officials, a woman alerted police of her brother’s kidnapping while admitting she paid human smugglers $11,000 to bring him to the U.S. The woman also reported the smugglers tried to extort her for more money once her brother arrived in Houston, which led her to call the police in fear of his life.
Investigators were able to track the suspects’ phone, which led them to the shocking discovery in the Houston neighborhood.
Medical personnel took some of the people found in the home to a hospital to be treated for dehydration after they told police they had not eaten or had anything to drink in three days.
Meanwhile, all five suspects are accused of harboring and concealing people for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain. If convicted, each suspect faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.