Breitbart Texas recently reported on 109 individuals found locked inside an alleged human “stash house” located just outside of Houston city limits. Houston Police Department (HPD) spokesman John Cannon confirmed to Breitbart Texas that five suspected human smugglers were taken into custody in connection to the case.
This morning it was announced during a congressional field hearing at Texas Southern University that the five individuals will face federal charges, according to the Houston Chronicle.
According to the Chronicle, Special Agent in Charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Brian Moskowitz announced during the hearing that the individuals will face a variety of charges including hostage taking, unlawfully carrying weapon, and conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens.
At the same hearing, HPD Chief Charles McClelland said, “This is a typical smuggling case.”
Still, the case is extraordinary in many ways. Greg Palmore of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told Breibart Texas, “To date this is the largest numbers of individuals in one residence I have ever seen,” in his seven years of service.
All of the recovered individuals are currently in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “The people will be taken to ICE’s detention facility where they will be processed–they will each be finger printed and interviewed, one by one,” Palmore said.
HPD spokesperson John Cannon told Breitbart Texas that the house was discovered after family members of a 24-year-old woman contacted police. The family members “were told to go to a location in North Houston and exchange ransom money to pick up the woman and her two kids,” Cannon said. “When the suspect did not show up, the family became concerned and contacted the HPD.”
HPD officers were able to connect the family members to the house on Almeda School Road and set up surveillance cameras on the property. At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, officers saw a vehicle leaving the residence. Officers pulled over the vehicle–they found several firearms and other evidence indicating illegal activity. The decision was then made to enter the house in search of the missing woman and two children.
When officers initially entered the home around 11 a.m., “they saw a sea of people, some sitting on top of each other,” Cannon said. “The conditions inside were filthy and dirty. Everywhere you looked there were clothes on the floor. There was one bathroom, no hot water, and a toilet that was only partially working… We got all the people out of the home. They were very tired and hungry so we provided them with food and water.”
94 males and 15 females, ages five to 50, were being held inside the home. The Chronicle reported that seventeen of the individuals were juveniles. Cannon said that three individuals attempted to run away from police and subsequently arrested. Although no individuals on the scene appeared to be injured, Cannon said one woman found in the home was pregnant–she was transported by a nearby hospital to receive care.
At this point, it is unclear how long the individuals were being held in the house, but several of them told HPD officers they were there for two to four days.
Cannon confirmed that the five individuals currently facing federal charges are the two initially pulled over in the car, as well as the three who attempted to flee on foot after police had arrived at the home. This case is currently being investigated by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the HPD, and ICE.
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate
Image courtesy of KPRC-NBC Houston.