HOUSTON, Texas – A Houston Police Department patrol officer busted what appears to be a human smuggling operation. Seven suspected illegal immigrants were captured following a traffic stop.
A Houston police officer made a routine traffic stop of a pickup truck for having an unreadable temporary license plate. As the white vehicle stopped, a large group of people jumped out of the truck and took off running, according to a Houston Chronicle article.
A K-9 unit was called in to help with the search and the officers rounded up seven people they suspect of being illegal immigrants who were possibly on their way to or from a stash house.
The encounter occurred on Friday morning at about 2 a.m. on the north side of Houston.
Houston Police Officer C. Curry told the Houston paper that he stopped the truck because it had an unreadable temporary license plate. He said that when the driver pulled the vehicle over, all seven people inside the truck jumped out and ran away into a nearby wooded area.
Because of suspicion that the seven were illegal immigrants, Houston police called federal immigration officers to the scene.
The Houston Chronicle did not report if anyone was arrested or if immigration officials took anyone into custody.
Houston has long been recognized as a hub for cartel connected human smuggling operations.
Just last month, Houston police officers raided a stash house and recovered 12 illegal immigrants who were being warehoused in the small house not far from the location of Friday morning’s traffic stop. Breitbart Texas reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were called to the scene. The agents took custody of the 12 illegal immigrants.
A few weeks before, Breitbart Texas reported Houston police officers raided another stash house in the city. In that incident, 15 illegal immigrants were taken into custody by federal agents and three people were arrested on charges of human smuggling. Officers reported the illegal immigrants were being held for ransom, a common practice at the stash houses used along smuggling routes.
“Police were being very tight lipped about the situation,” Montgomery County Police Reporter’s Scott Engle told Breitbart Texas. He said that residents told him they had seen as many as thirty people sitting on curbs earlier.
Holding the illegal immigrants for ransom is a common practice by cartel connected human smugglers across Texas. Earlier this year, Breitbart Texas reported that five people had been convicted in Houston of running a stash house where more than 100 people were being held for ransom. Prison sentences for the human smugglers ranged from 18 months to three years.
In August, Breitbart Texas reported about a stash house in the border city of Donna, Texas. A woman in her fifties was found after she escaped from the stash house. She had duct tape on her face. She said she had been kidnapped.
Illegal immigrants pay human smugglers thousands of dollars to get them across the border and into the United States. At various stops on the way to their destination, they will frequently be held in stash houses where smugglers will contact family members and demand more money before they will move them along to the next step in their journey. Often, the immigrants will be beaten or sexually assaulted while being held in the stash houses.