- Houston Police discovered a human smuggling home after 97 undocumented immigrants were found.
- Five people were charged in federal court in the human smuggling scheme.
- One person said that the ringleaders threatened her brother’s life to obtain more money.
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In total, five people were charged with harboring, concealing, and shielding undocumented immigrants for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain. Their names are:
- Marina Garcia-Diaz, 22, of El Salvador
- Henry Licona-Larios, 31, Honduras
- Kevin Kicona-Lopez, 25, Honduras
- Marco Baca-Perez, 30, Mexico
- Marcelo Garcia-Palacios, 21, Mexico
According to the criminal complaint filed on May 1, the Houston Police Department received a 911 call about a kidnapping case from Francis Martinez. The filing alleges that Martinez paid human smugglers $11,000 to move her brother from Honduras to the US. She said that she was told by several people that if she didn’t pay an additional $6,300, her brother would be killed.
According to the complaint, Martinez spoke with her brother briefly in a separate call, where he repeatedly asked “please help me.” Afraid for her brother’s life, she reported the incident to the Houston Police Department, who, according to the court documents, obtained an “emergency geolocate” to review the locations of the people who threateningly called Martinez, leading investigators to the house where the immigrants were found.
After obtaining a search warrant, Homeland Security Investigations discovered 97 undocumented immigrants in the Houston house. Investigators said that every male immigrant found in the home was only wearing “undergarments.” The home contained two bedrooms with immigrants inside – each contained a deadbolt on the outside of the door to prevent a single person from leaving.
Smuggling records, US cash, and ledgers with the names of each immigrant were also discovered in the warrant.
Houston Police Assistant Chief Daryn Edwards said on Friday that each of the immigrants found in the home would be tested for COVID-19 as many were symptomatic and unable to smell or taste.
If found guilty, each of the five people charged faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.