HOUSTON, Texas — The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas filed criminal charges against five “non-citizens of the United States” for their alleged roles in a human smuggling stash house operation. The alleged smugglers reportedly extorted the families of migrants being held in a house in southwest Houston.
Federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Marina Garcia-Diaz, 22, El Salvador; Henry Licona-Larios, 31, Copan, Honduras; Kevin Licona-Lopez, 25, Santa Barbara, Honduras; Marco Baca-Perez 30, Michoacan, Mexico; and Marcelo Garcia-Palacios, 21, Oaxaca, Mexico, Fox 26 Houston reported. Police reportedly found nearly 100 migrants locked inside two rooms inside the stash house.
Law enforcement officials began an investigation after a woman contacted police saying that her brother had been kidnapped. The human smugglers, despite already having been paid “several thousand dollars” to be smuggled into the U.S., threatened to kill her brother if she did not pay additional smuggling fees.
An investigation led Houston Police Department officers to a house in southwest Houston where they found 97 “undocumented noncitizens” being held in two rooms of the house. Officials said the rooms had deadbolts on the doors to prevent the migrants escape.
A criminal complaint reviewed by Breitbart Texas states the men were being held in their undergarments.
The complaint states that the woman who reported the alleged kidnapping claimed to have initially paid smugglers $11,000 in February to bring her brother from Honduras to the United States. She said the smugglers demanded she drive from Dallas to Houston to pay an additional $6,300 for her brother to be released. The smugglers told her they would kill her brother if she did not pay, the complaint states.
Houston police officers executed a search warrant at the four-bedroom house on the city’s southwest side. The kidnapped migrants were locked inside two of those bedrooms.
Suspect Kevin Licona-Lopez was reported to be armed with a handgun by one of the witnesses. He also instructed the men to remove their clothes and surrender their cell phones. The witnesses identified the suspects as being in charge of the stash house operation, the complaint states. Lopez also reportedly told the migrants if they did not live, it was because their families did not pay.
Another suspect, Henry Licona-Larios, reportedly told the migrants that if their families did not pay, they would be be put in “four pieces of wood,” the complaint states. The witness said he understood the threat to mean they would be put in coffins six feet under.
Witnesses also reported the migrants were physically assaulted and threatened if they did not remain quiet inside the house.
Inside the home, investigators found envelopes with cash and “poll ledgers,” investigators stated.
Fox 26 News reported that five of the 97 migrants held in the two small rooms tested positive for COVID-19, according to a spokesman for the Houston Health Department. Five other migrants remain hospitalized pending COVID-19 test results.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the suspects are being held on charges of harboring, concealing, and shielding illegal aliens for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain. If convicted on the charges, each defendant could face up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior news contributor for the Breitbart Texas-Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Price is a regular panelist on Fox 26 Houston’s What’s Your Point? Sunday-morning talk show. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Face