Three men are in federal custody for allegedly holding 35 illegal immigrants against their will in a Pharr, Texas apartment on the U.S./Mexico border. The captors are accused of beating and the victims and extorting their families for money.
Court records obtained by Breitbart Texas state that the apartment was discovered after Wilson Ezaro-Deras, a Honduran man in the United States illegally, escaped from the Pharr apartment.
Ezaro-Deras apparently made his way to a Stripes convenience store in Hidalgo, Texas, where he called officers for help. After being picked up by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents, the immigrant took police to the hostage apartment on May 5, where three individuals were arrested: 27-year-old Gustavo Hernandez, 28-year-old Jose Angel Mayorga and 27-year-old Alfredo Balli. Mayorga and Hernandez were both in the U.S. illegally at the time of their apprehensions.
34 individuals, all of whom are thought to be illegal immigrants, were also rescued from the residence.
Subsequent interviews with the apparent victims revealed rampant abuse by the three suspects.
Ezaro-Deras’ brother alleged that he was previously contacted by the suspects and asked to pay $1,500 in “smuggling fees” for Ezaro-Deras’ release. “Ezaro-Deras was allegedly physically assaulted and had been threatened to be killed if the money was not paid,” a criminal complaint said.
Other captors, when interviewed by officers, said they were tortured and threatened with castration, sexual abuse, and murder in the human stash house. Such threats were apparently used to extort money from the victims’ family members.
The complaint said that one material witness claimed the suspects “slapped him around, tied him up with a green and white robe, threatened him with a knife, cut his hair, threatened to cut off his genitals, put a cloth in his mouth and attempted to sexually molest him if his family members did not pay $4,500 for his release.”
During questioning Mayorga admitted to his role in the smuggling operation. He said he would “get paid $20.00 to $30.00 to take care of the undocumented aliens,” the complaint said. “He said he would make phone calls to the families and demand money from them pick it up once it was sent to them.”
Mayorga admitted to much of the physical abuse the victims had accused him of.
HSI took rope, cloth, and a knife from the scene as evidence, according to The Monitor.
Breitbart Texas has reported on several human stash house busts in the state this year.
A human stash house
Houston Police Department spokesman John Cannon told Breitbart Texas that at the scene, officers found “a sea of people, some sitting on top of each other” inside the small home, which had boards on the windows and deadbolts on the doors. A criminal complaint said, “A wooden paddle, a stungun, two shotguns, and several types of ammunition were found inside the residence.”
The five defendants charged in relation to the Houston-based human stash house each face 15 years in federal prison. Those who are not U.S. citizens will likely be deported from the country after serving time.
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate.