HOUSTON - The Department of Justice has filed human smuggling charges against five people in connection with a home in the Houston area that had more than 90 people huddled inside last week.
The investigation started last week after a woman called Houston police about her brother being possibly kidnaped. The investigation led officials to the home on the city’s southwest side.
When SWAT and law enforcement went inside, they found 97 people, mostly men, inside just two of the rooms in the two-story home. Officials say all of them were undocumented and not citizens of the U.S.
The criminal complaint alleges five noncitizens are living in this country illegally, and that they “harbored, concealed and shielded illegal aliens for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain.”
The suspects are citizens of other Central American countries; two are from Honduras, two from Mexico and one from El Salvador. They were all arrested and remain in custody.
Investigators now say the woman who called police initially about her brother had paid several thousand dollars for him to be smuggled into the U.S.
“However, the smugglers had allegedly demanded additional money before they would release her brother. They also threatened to kill him,” according to the release from the Department of Justice.
The investigation by Houston police and federal law enforcement discovered there were deadbolts on the room doors facing out, preventing escape from those inside the rooms.
The suspects face up to ten years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 if they are convicted.