Federal charges were filed against five people over the weekend after a 911 call led to Houston Police Department (HPD) discovering 97 migrants locked in two rooms at a southwest Houston, TX home.

According to several of the victims, they paid thousands of dollars to be smuggled into the U.S. but were forced to stay in a stash house for weeks while the persons running the operation extorted their families for more money. The discovery happened after a Honduran woman paid smugglers $11,000 to bring her brother to the U.S. When the smugglers threatened to kill her brother if she didn’t pay an additional $6,000, the woman called Houston Police.

Five females and 92 males, with the youngest being in their early 20s, were discovered at the home. They were locked in the home, malnourished, all of the males were in their underwear, and several of the victims were exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms. So far, five have tested positive.

One woman and five men from El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico were charged with smuggling migrants “for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain,” on Monday.

Within the last week, several stash houses have been discovered. Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley raided four human stash houses within a seven-hour period in one county and found 52 migrants. The next day, agents discovered 47 more migrants in another stash houses and hiding in the back of an 18-wheeler truck.

According to HPD, rental homes are often used as stash houses. Red flags to help identify possible smuggling operations include well-manicured homes with little furniture inside and little activity outside, trash bins placed outside on trash pickup days, and SUVs or big vans showing up late in the evenings or at night. Landlords are also advised to check on their tenants and property after renters move in.

Why We Need to Know:
Someone giving every dollar and walking across the desert for God knows how long, just for a chance to have a better life in the U.S. is not the problem. Stealing their money, locking them in a room and trucks, starving and sometimes killing them is the problem. Thank God these people were saved. Just imagine how many more are locked away in homes or abandoned in the desert right now.