Law enforcement discovered nearly 100 undocumented aliens in a suburban Houston home in Texas, and five people illegally in the United States are now in custody in connection with the case, the Department of Justice announced.
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, allegedly all “harbored, concealed and shielded illegal aliens for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain,” the criminal complaint states.
If convicted, each of the accused faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.
According to the DOJ, an investigation was opened after a woman called authorities to report her brother had been kidnapped.
“She had paid several thousand dollars for him to be smuggled into the United States,” the complaint states. “However, the smugglers had allegedly demanded additional money before they would release her brother. They also threatened to kill him,” according to the DOJ news release.
The charges allege at least one other person “was told if the money was not paid, he would be put in ‘four pieces of wood.’”
The ensuing investigation led to the home in Southwest Houston, where authorities found 97 undocumented noncitizens crammed into two rooms that had deadbolts on the outside to prevent anyone from escaping, the charges allege.
Houston police said all except five of the people in the rooms were men and there were no children present, KHOU reported.
Five later tested positive for COVID-19, according to authorities.