HOUSTON - Five men will face federal charges after police say they held 115 people for ransom inside a house in south Houston.
Jose Aviles-Villa, Jonathan Solorazano-Tavila, Antonio Barruquet-Hildiberta, Jose Cesmas-Borja and Eugenio Sesmas-Borja were charged with hostage taking, unlawful possession of a firearm and conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens.
"Houston and Harris County has always been a hub for human smuggling and human trafficking for many years," said Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia. "Thanks to recent efforts to increase awareness to this issue, we have worked to inform and educate the public about human trafficking that has effected the labor industry. There are now dedicated resources to confront the issues," said Garcia.
Investigators began to run surveillance on the home after officers received a frantic call from a woman claiming her daughter and two grandchildren were kidnapped. According to court documents, that woman paid human smugglers $15,000 to get her family into the United States and take them Chicago.
That woman told officers, once her daughter was in Houston, a man called her and demanded an extra $13,000 and if he did not receive it he would "make her family disappear, and make them pay."
Officers raided the home off Almeda School Road and found men, women and children packed inside of the small home. The people inside had to live in squalor with no running water, and no working toilet. Each room was littered with trash and each door was dead bolted from the outside and the inside of the home.
Five men, who served as "security guards," were arrested.
According to federal prosecutors, they carried loaded handguns and shotguns, and used them as intimidation so the people inside of the home couldn't escape.
Court documents reveal the men and women were "kicked and beaten with wooden paddles," and "forced to take off their shoes and clothes so they would not escape."
The five suspects faced a judge for the first time today. All of them will be assigned court appointed Spanish speaking attorneys. Meanwhile, investigators are still interviewing the people that were found inside of the home. Some of them are still receiving medical treatment.
They can transition very quickly from being involved in human smuggling to becoming a victim," said Garcia. "The line gets blurred very quickly."
Some may be returned to their home countries, but decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. All of the them will have the opportunity to go before an immigration judge.
And all will have an opportunity to apply for a "U-Visa," which allows illegals who are also victims of crime to live and work legally in the U.S. for four years.
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