Human smuggling suspect released on $5,000 bond; Police fear he will flee

HOUSTON – Homeland Security agents and Houston police rescued six naked men from a human trafficking operation Monday at an apartment in southwest Houston.

Jorge Antonio Chavez, 50, was arrested after being accused of holding the men there.

But Chavez wasn’t in jail for long.

READ: Man accused of smuggling after 6 people found inside southwest Houston apartment

At his probable cause hearing this morning, the prosecutors asked for a high bond of $25,000. They argued that Chavez is an obvious flight risk.

The prosecutor told the hearing officer, “I have concerns he will not return to court. This is a felony offense. I guess it has the potential to be considered by federal authorities.”

But the hearing officer, Lionel Castro, decided to release Chavez on a personal recognizance bond, which didn’t require him to post any bail.

“I don’t see any significant criminal history. I do see that you are employed. So I’m going to set your bond in the amount of $5,000 and grant you a personal bond on this charge,” Castro said in court.

Chavez is due back in court Wednesday, but Ray Hunt, with the Houston Police Officers Union, said it isn’t likely he’ll show up.

“It really means it’s a get out of jail free card. He walked out of jail with absolutely no money whatsoever. He’s probably not going to come back. He had six people stashed in his apartment. It’s sad when the police are the only ones concerned about these six people,” Hunt said.

Assist. District Attorney Johna Stallings said a high bond was is needed in the case to ensure Chavez doesn’t flee and to ensure the victims are protected.

“As a prosecutor of smuggling, trafficking and violent offenses, I don’t think it’s appropriate that a personal bond be granted in this case,” Stallings said. “This kind of bond or lack of one doesn’t help encourage our victims to come forward.”

She said prosecutors will ask to raise Chavez’s bond to $50,000 at Wednesday’s hearing. The question is, will it matter.

KPRC 2 reached out to Castro for comment but has not returned the call.