HOUSTON - Twelve people were rescued Sunday by police after being locked in the back of a rental truck, and three people have been charged in connection with the case, according to prosecutors.
Priscila Perez Beltran, 21; Adela Alvarez, 26; and Nelson Cortes Garcia, 27, were each charged with trafficking persons after the truck was found in the parking lot of a strip mall near the intersection of Fondren Road and Harwin Drive.
Monday a magistrate ordered Beltran and Alvarez held on a total of $300,000 bond each on three counts of smuggling persons. Police say a ledger found in the truck identified Alvarez as having participated is previous human smuggling trips for which she was paid. She allegedly admitted she acted as “muscle” to protect other smugglers.
Alvarez and Beltran are Salvadoran nationals.
Harris County prosecutors said 10 men, a woman and a 16-year-old girl had been locked in the box truck for hours, beating on the walls of the truck and begging for someone to let them out. They said Houston police officers eventually rescued the group, who were found profusely sweating and exhausted in temperatures of more than 100 degrees.
“Thirty more minutes and this could have been a dozen homicide cases,” said Harris County First Assistant District Attorney Tom Berg. “The quick action of the Houston police is commendable.”
At a press conference Monday, Assistant Harris Co D.A. JoAnne Musick said, “Each of these individuals, all 12 of them, faced severe consequences, they faced serious bodily injury or death. Inside that unventilated, unairconditioned cargo truck temps exceeded well over 100 degrees.”
Prosecutors said those who were rescued are believed to be from Latin America. They said all of them are recovering and remain in custody.
Beltran, Alvarez and Garcia each face between two and 20 years in prison, if convicted. They were each being held in jail on $300,000 bond.
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