Organizers for South Texas Human Smuggling Ring Convicted

Organizers for South Texas Human Smuggling Ring Convicted

37-year-old Julio Vargas Hernandez and 31-year-old Gustavo Morales Manriquez each pled guilty–facing life in prison–to kidnapping men from South America and holding them hostage.

Reports allege that the two men held victims hostage by gunpoint and then trapped them in a human stash house located near the Mercedes, Texas, a town near the Mexican border, according to the McAllen Monitor. The victims were apparently forced to call family members and demand money in exchange for their release. 

Vargas and Morales were reportedly apprehended after one victim, Uriel Lucero Velazquez, called Pharr police and alleged that he and others had been kidnapped after illegally crossing the Rio Grande River. Velazquez claimed that the victims were trapped in a Mercedes-based stash house, which they were forced into after armed threats.  

Velazquez further alleged that he was made to call his relatives and demand that they pay up to $1,000 in order for his release, according to The McAllen Monitor

Vargas and Morales, both of whom allegedly admitted to killing illegal immigrants in the past, will be sentenced in July. 

It is not uncommon for illegal immigrants to become victims of hostage-taking. 

Earlier this year, Breitbart Texas reported on an immense human stash house busted in Houston. 115 individuals, many of whom were woman and children, were uncovered from the home. 

Like the most recent case in Mercedes, many of the victims in the Houston home were forced to call relatives and demand money for their release. 

On March 19, police received a phone call from the mother of a missing woman who was in the U.S illegally. Houston Police Department (HPD) spokesperson John Cannon told Breitbart Texas the woman’s 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. When the suspect did not show up, the family became concerned and contacted the HPD.” 

According to the criminal complaint, the mother initially paid smugglers $15,000 to have her daughter and grandchildren transported to Chicago, Illinois. She subsequently received a call from individuals in Houston who told her to pay an additional $13,000 or else her family would “disappear,” according to the court record. 

Phone records of the victim’s family ultimately led HPD officers to a small house on Almeda School Road, where officers found “a sea of people, some sitting on top of each other.” The windows on the home were boarded up, and the conditions inside were filthy. 

Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate