HOUSTON – A family’s two-month-long nightmare is over. A woman says authorities found her cousin stripped down to his underwear, but alive when police busted a possible human smuggling operation.
On Thursday night, Houston police said a man escaped from a home and ran nearly naked through a southwest Houston neighborhood, screaming he’d been kidnapped.
When investigators arrived, they surrounded the home the man had fled from and eventually forced their way inside. The commotion caused quite a stir, many neighbors watched as 29 men and one woman were led out from the home by law enforcement. Amongst the neighbors, another person was watching intently, more than most, Andrea Baquedano.
Baquedano was hoping her cousin, Luis, was among the victims taken from the home. She couldn’t tell for sure because crime scene tape strewn through the neighborhood kept her from getting a good view.
According to Baquedano, her family paid $11,000 to get Luis smuggled into the United States. She said during the smuggling process a Mexican gang called Los Zetas abducted him and held him for a $3,000 ransom. She said she wanted proof he was still alive, then the abductors went silent, as weeks turned into months, she began to lose hope. That changed when she heard about the bust and rushed to the scene.
“I hope that God saved him, that’s why I came all the way over here,” said Baquedano, who lives in north Harris County.
Thursday night, Baquedano left the southwest Houston neighborhood with hope, but also uncertainty … was her cousin among the rescued victims.
However, Friday morning she was all smiles.
“My cousin called me from Mexico, telling me that he was at the scene yesterday and he was sent back to Mexico,” Baquedano said.
The call was a big relief for Baquedano, her cousin is still breathing. She said the experience was traumatic for her cousin and he plans to return to Honduras.
“I don’t care about the money, I just care that he’s alive,” Baquedano said.
Houston police said the 30 victims were transferred to the custody of Immigration Customs and Enforcement. Three persons of interests have been detained in relation to the possible human smuggling operation.