HOUSTON, TEXAS— 41-year-old Mexican national Samuel Castro-Flores, better known as “Chame” or “Chamuco,” was convicted of 18 counts by a jury Thursday for conspiracy to commit hostage taking, hostage taking and associated human trafficking matters.
Castro-Flores was deported in 2011 but subsequently re-entered the country illegally. He was exposed as the leader of a major smuggling ring that held 26 illegal aliens hostage inside a Houston residence.
In August, 2012, two illegal immigrants were smuggled into the U.S.; their family members subsequently received numerous calls demanding thousands of dollars in exchange for the aliens’ release.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officials obtained a warrant to search a property on Amblewood Drive in Houston on September 7, 2012. Upon arrival, agents discovered 26 illegal immigrants in the house being held hostage, two of whom were children. The hostages were all in their underwear, kept in locked rooms with boards over the windows. The living conditions in the home were described as “deplorable.”
The illegal immigrants were apparently “sold” as soon as they arrived in Houston. In order to be released, their families were forced to pay a handsome amount–if no money was received, the smuggled aliens were often threatened with death. The residence was constantly guarded by armed to prevent escape.
Brian M. Moskowitz, a spokesman for HSI Houston, said, “The tragedy and violence in this case shows the disregard for life by these human smuggling organizations.Those who place themselves or their loved ones in the hands of a smuggler should understand the very real dangers – including being held as a hostage and exposed to extreme life-threatening danger.”
Castro-Flores went to excessive lengths to prevent the Amblewood home from being exposed as a hostage holding grounds. The owner of an air conditioning repair business briefly employed Castro-Flores but fired him after learning about the smuggled aliens. He testified that Castro-Flores asked him to tell law enforcement that he was only at the Amblewood property to repair an air conditioner.
The recent incident is not the first time Castro-Flores has been involved in a scheme involving illegal immigrants. He was deported in 2011 after being convicted of conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens in July, 2009. He subsequently re-entered the U.S. illegally and became involved in the newest case of human smuggling.
Castro-Flores was arrested for his most recent crimes on December 5, 2012. He may now spend life in prison and face a $250,000 fine. The investigation into Castro-Flores was carried out by HSI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Houston, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. The Houston Police Department also assisted.
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