An alleged hostage situation resulted in 82 individuals being freed, and four suspected human smugglers arrested, Wednesday, September 19, 2012, from a human smuggling stash house by agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and officers from the Houston Police Department (HPD).
A call was received Tuesday, September 18, 2012, from the mother of a 16 year-old female being held hostage in the Houston area. HSI and HPD initiated the investigation, resulting in the rescue of the teenager on Wednesday, September 19, 2012, in a parking lot located near I-10 and Gessner St.
Based on information developed at the scene, HSI identified a stash house, operating out of a residence located on the 3400 block of Boxelder Dr. in west Houston, suspected of holding 70 individuals who allegedly been smuggled into the United States. Additional information indicated that the individuals inside were being held against their will by smugglers carrying firearms.
A total of 86 individuals were discovered at the residence from the following countries: Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. Of the 86 individuals encountered, 62 were male, 15 were female, and nine were juveniles. Their ages range from 14 to 48 years-old and four individuals encountered at the house are suspected of being human smugglers from Mexico.
“During the course of these investigations illegal aliens smuggled into the United States can become kidnapping victims while awaiting the payoff of smuggling fees,” said Sean McElroy, deputy special agent in charge of HSI Houston. “HSI is committed to using every available resource to identify, investigate and arrest those transnational criminal organizations involved in crimes related to hostage taking as well as human smuggling.”
All 82 freed from the stash house are currently in ICE custody and are undergoing administrative and medical processing. The investigation is ongoing.