Warrant details smuggling investigation at Spring Branch area complex

HOUSTON – A recently filed search warrant outlines a human smuggling investigation centering on a Spring Branch area apartment complex.

According to court documents, a man said he was held captive in an apartment on Ojeman at Manire for three days without food or water before escaping.

“I think it’s ridiculous we live in world like this where we have to worry about who lives next to us,” said a neighbor who asked not to be identified.

Court documents stated police were told immigrants smuggled from Mexico into the US were taken to an apartment and held captive until they paid a fee of $5,500. The man who escaped told investigators he was living at a shelter in Mexico when he was approached by a man who offered to help get him into the US. An affidavit filed with the warrants reads, the man said after arriving in the US, he learned the man he met at the shelter was part of a smuggling operation who then threatened him at gunpoint.

Other residents said while they saw people coming and going from the apartment, they never realized people were being held against their will.

“Hardly anybody is ever outside, it’s very quiet,” said another resident.

The man who escaped told police he was the only one in his group who couldn’t pay the $5,500. He said, at one point, one of his captors got a phone call and told the caller, “What do you want me to do with him? He hasn’t paid the money.”

Investigators wrote the man then heard the voice on the other end of the phone say, “I don’t know him, shoot him twice, kill him or rape him but we get the money.”

The man told police he was then sexually assaulted with a toilet plunger.

Investigators said, an hour after the assault, the man saw eight more immigrants brought into the apartment. He said he then noticed the guard was missing so he ran out of the back door and along the back of the complex before jumping a fence. The man then ran down Spring Creek Branch until he found someone to dial 911.

The man was taken to a hospital and police obtained a warrant to search the apartment. An inventory list attached to the warrant showed officers took clothes, trash, a plunger and several swabs of blood found inside the apartment.

Head of the immigrant rights organization FIEL, Cesar Espinosa, said criminal operations like this have been seen across the city.

“We’ve had cases in River Oaks, in Memorial, I mean this happens everywhere,” Espinosa explained.

Espinosa’s organization has helped several people brutalized by smugglers who pretend to offer a helping hand to those desperate to get into the U.S.

“It’s just so dangerous and once they get here, they don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. Unfortunately, people’s desperation sometimes overwhelms them,” said Espinosa.

Police declined to answer further questions about this case, saying the investigation is only beginning. Employees at the complexes’ leasing office also declined to comment.

About the Author:

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”