On March 18, police in Houston working in conjunction with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rescued 108 kidnapped victims being held in squalid conditions in a south Houston “stash house” in which federal immigration authorities described as being “among the largest human-trafficking discoveries in the last five years.”
According to The Los Angeles Times, the “93 males and 15 females, including 17 children,” were all discovered in a small, locked house “with one bathroom, no hot water and very little food.”
Those rescued from the stash house yesterday came originally from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.
ICE officials arrested five men in connection with the human smuggling operation.
Police in Houston began watching the small single story house yesterday after a frantic mother in the area called police to report that her 24-year-old daughter, her seven-year-old granddaughter and five year-old grandson had been kidnapped. The alleged kidnappers called the woman demanding ransom, but didn’t show up at the ransom exchange site, which is when the woman contacted the authorities.
The woman’s three family members were among those rescued from the house.
Officials confiscated “guns and paper indicating illegal activity,” in a car driven by one of those arrested as he was trying to make a getaway from the house.
A spokesperson for the Houston police, John Cannon, said that there were “… dozens and dozens of people in a very tight residence, cramped in like you would normally see animals.”
“They were hungry and tired.”
Windows in the house were boarded up and the doors dead-bolted and locked.
The single toilet didn't always flush properly, Cannon said.
Some of those rescued told authorities that they’d been held captive for more than two weeks. One pregnant woman rescued became ill and had to be hospitalized.
“The scope of how long it has been operating will be investigated by ICE because of the magnitude of this,” Cannon said.
“The officers were very surprised by the conditions and the number of people inside.”
Officials also found hundreds of chickens on the property that may have been used in a cock-fighting operation.
- 255 child predators arrested in ICE’s Operation iGuardian
- ICE arrests more than 200 adults for child exploitation, looking for more
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