ICE: 82 held in stash house in southwest Harris County
The rescue of a teen being held ransom led to the arrest of her captors and to a stash house bust.
A mother told KPRC Local 2 on Tuesday, fearing for the life of her 16-year-old daughter. She said the teen was in the hands of smugglers who illegally brought her to the U.S. from Nicaragua and were demanding more ransom payments.
On Wednesday, investigators found the girl in a parking lot on Interstate 10 near Gessner. The men who were holding her hostage were arrested.
Detectives were then led to the home in the 3400 block of Boxelder Drive, where the girl had been held. When investigators got there, they found 82 people who had been smuggled into the United States illegally. There were 62 men, 15 women and nine juveniles. They all ranged in age from 14 to 48.
Investigators said most of the illegal immigrants weren't wearing more than underwear and many of them had been deprived of food and water.
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, 8 of the illegal immigrants were from Costa Rica, one from Ecuador, 26 from El Salvador, 20 from Guatemala, 18 from Honduras and 13 from Mexico.
Officials said they also found four people suspected of being human smugglers.
"During the course of these investigations illegal aliens smuggled into the United States can become kidnapping victims while awaiting the payoff of smuggling fees," said Sean McElroy, deputy special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Houston.
Neighbors said they didn't see anything strange from the outside of the home.
"How in the world did they get 85 people and we not know it?" neighbor Lamar Nicholson wondered. "I think I saw the garage up once and there was one guy in there. It looked as if it was just a normal house."
Investigators said the conditions inside the home were deplorable.
The 82 illegal immigrants were taken into custody and were undergoing administrative and medical processing.