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Federal charges filed against five suspects after authorities discover 97 people crammed inside Houston home

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 5 days ago Jessica Schladebeck
a couple of people that are sitting in the grass: Paramedics transport a man into an ambulance from the scene of a human smuggling case, where more than 90 undocumented immigrants were found inside a home on the 12200 block of Chessington Drive, Friday, April 30, 2021, in Houston. A Houston Police official said the case will be handled by federal authorities and that some of the people inside the house were exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. ( Godofredo A. Vásquez/Houston Chronicle via AP) © Godofredo A. Vásquez Paramedics transport a man into an ambulance from the scene of a human smuggling case, where more than 90 undocumented immigrants were found inside a home on the 12200 block of Chessington Drive, Friday, April 30, 2021, in Houston. A Houston Police official said the case will be handled by federal authorities and that some of the people inside the house were exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. ( Godofredo A. Vásquez/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Federal charges have been filed against at least five people for their alleged roles in what authorities believe to be a human smuggling operation run out of a Houston “stash house,” where investigators found nearly 100 people crammed inside two rooms last week.

Marina Garcia-Diaz, 22; Henry Licona-Larios, 31; Kevin Licona-Lopez, 25; Marco Baca-Perez, 30; and Marcelo Garcia-Palacios, 21, are each accused of having “harbored, concealed and shielded illegal aliens for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain,” the Department of Justice announced on Monday.

None of the five are U.S. citizens and all are living in the country illegally, the department added.

Their arrests stem from an investigation, prompted by a call from a woman who alleged her brother had been kidnapped and was being held against his will. She told authorities she paid thousands of dollars for him to be smuggled into the United States, but that the smugglers demanded that she provide more money and then threatened to kill her loved one if she did not.

The report drew investigators to a so-called “stash house” in Southwest Houston on Friday, where they discovered 97 migrants crammed inside two different rooms, according to the complaint. Police said they were also deadbolts on the of the doors to prevent those inside from escaping.

There were no children found in the home and only five women, according to Houston police. The rest of the victims were men, and they were all discovered wearing only their underwear, according to the complaint.

One victim also alleged that if the money was not paid, he would be put in “4 pieces of wood,” meaning a coffin.

If convicted, each suspect faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum.

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