More than 100 people were held against their will for days in a suspected stash house in Houston, authorities said Wednesday.
The LA Times reported that the 93 males and 15 females, 17 of whom are children, came from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. The Times said it was not immediately known how they got locked in the small, single story house with one bathroom, no hot water and hardly any food. (LATimes.com)
Authorities discovered the trapped people while searching for a 24-year-old woman and her two young children. Relatives had reported them missing after a missed meeting, Houston police said.
The people in the home where the woman and her children were found appeared to be part of a human smuggling operation, police said. They were dressed only in undergarments, sitting in filthy conditions, police said.
Many of the women told police they had been in the house for up to four days. One woman said she had been there 15 days.
Authorities arrested five men and handed the investigation over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ICE spokesman Greg Palmore said a house with this many people inside was discovered in the Houston area five years ago. Two years ago, another house with 86 people was discovered.
In this case, Palmore said it was too soon to say whether the people were being held as part of a human trafficking operation, but he said that appears to be the case.
Besides the people, police also found hundreds of chickens on the property, allegedly tied to illegal cock-fighting.
AP contributed to this report.