Arrests made in Houston stash house case - all are illegal immigrants

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

Arrests have been made in the Houston stash house case where 97 illegal immigrants were found. Five people were taken into custody and charged with federal crimes related to the discovery of a stash house used by human traffickers Friday. A criminal complaint was filed on Saturday. All five people charged in this case are illegal immigrants themselves.

A Houston Police Department (HPD) SWAT team raided the house Friday after a woman in Dallas called HPD to report that her brother had been kidnapped. Francis Martinez told HPD that she paid smugglers $11,000 in February to bring her brother, Santos Vaquedano, from Honduras to the United States. Thursday Martinez received a call from the human traffickers who instructed her to drive to Houston and meet them at a Walgreens parking lot. She was also told she would have to pay them another $6,300 for her brother’s release. As she drove to Houston, a woman called and put her brother on the phone. Martinez provided HPD with a recording of that phone call. Her brother is heard on the recording asking her repeatedly to “please help me”. A man also called Martinez during her drive to Houston and told her that her brother would be killed if she didn’t pay the additional money.

HPD used the cell phone numbers of the callers to determine the house being used in Houston. They then began watching the house. Then HPD raided it on Friday morning. In the stash house, 97 people were found. All of the people were men except for five women. On Saturday, Department of Homeland Security special agent Suyapa Martin wrote a sworn statement in support of a criminal complaint filed Saturday. That complaint was publicized by Houston federal prosecutors Monday. The criminal complaint alleges that all five people harbored, concealed, and shielded illegal immigrants for the “purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain.” Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery, from the Southern District of Texas, said all of the people charged are in the country illegally.

The traffickers have been named along with their country of origin.

They are Marina García-Díaz, 22, El Salvador; Henry Licona-Larios, 31, Copan, Honduras; Kevin Licona-López, 25, Santa Barbara, Honduras; Marco Baca-Pérez 30, Michoacán, Mexico; and Marcelo García-Palacios, 21, Oaxaca, Mexico. They had an initial appearance in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christina Bryan, who appointed public counsel for all of them and called for a preliminary hearing Wednesday.

The 97 people were crammed into rooms with deadbolts on the doors. Some were ill, dehydrated, and clothed only in underwear. They had been forced to give the traffickers all of their belongings. Several captives identified the five who were arrested as the leaders of the operation. Eight of the captives have been taken into custody as material witnesses to testify against the five who were arrested. The five face up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine, if convicted.

This was a human trafficking business operation. According to HSI Agent Martin’s affidavit, Homeland Security Investigations workers found several ledgers in the home with the names of undocumented immigrants and smuggling payment records. Human trafficking is big business, especially now during Joe Biden’s southern border crisis. These traffickers boldly invaded a quiet subdivision to set up their stash house. This was not a seedy area or on the outskirts of the city. This was, by all appearances, a middle-class subdivision. If it were not for the sister of one of the captives, her brother would probably still be held in the house. Clearly, HPD didn’t have it on their radar.

Biden’s border crisis is a humanitarian crisis. This shocking raid is just the latest example of exploitation taking place. The smugglers are emboldened by the language used by the Biden administration and Biden’s promises to end deportations. Biden is destroying the Trump administration’s successful border policies to own Donald Trump. This activity is the result of bad policy decisions. Houston is a haven for human trafficking. Unfortunately, this stash house isn’t the only one that has been raided and won’t be the last one operating in the city. The size of this operation, though, put it in the headlines. Stash houses typically don’t hold 97 people in them. The escalation of the number of people being held by coyotes is alarming.

Joe Biden owns this human tragedy. Illegal immigrants operate human trafficking operations with a sense of impunity. This was totally predictable. The border crisis is growing despite the spin put out by the Biden administration.