Couple allegedly trafficked from Honduras

June 5, 2009 9:06:31 PM PDT
A couple of human smugglers remain on the run Friday night, and the people whom they're accused of kidnapping went to great lengths to get away from them. They were found at a car wash on West Bellfort in southwest Houston. The apartment from where they escaped was nearby on Bob White.

Like many undocumented workers, a husband and wife came to Houston from Honduras looking for work, but in their case they ended up as hostages.

Investigators rummaged through Unit 651 of the southwest Houston apartment complex in the 11000 block of Bob White. About 1:15pm Friday, a husband and wife who were smuggled in from Honduras escaped the second story unit by going over the balcony.

"They jumped from a back balcony, while the suspects were preoccupied. One was sleeping, the other was in a different room," said Alan Brown of the Houston Police Department.

Police said the suspects are coyotes. Just four days ago, they smuggled in nine Honduran nationals, promising them jobs to pay for their entry into Houston.

"Once they arrived here, that didn't quite work out. They just demanded money from family members," said Brown.

Investigators said that out of the nine, only the husband and wife could not come up with the money. After being held captive for almost a week, they escaped by running to a nearby carwash and calling police.

Neighbors never noticed.

"I didn't think anything like that was happening around here," said resident Kenneth Ware.

In the last three weeks, Houston smuggling cases have made headlines. On May 14, a 15-year-old boy from Guatemala was found dead in the back seat of a pickup. Investigators said he was smuggled in by coyotes and severely dehydrated. He did not survive the trip.

Then on June 4, three people were charged with human trafficking for smuggling in a 15-year-old Mexican girl. She was promised restaurant work, but detectives said she was forced into prostitution.

In the latest alleged human trafficking case, as the unit is boarded up, the coyotes are gone. While neighbors knew the occupants, the coyotes were good at smuggling human cargo across the border and also good at hiding 11 people in one apartment.

"He was pretty nice. He speaks and that's about it, but as far as a kidnapping, that's kind of strange," said resident Taylor Berry.

The husband and wife smuggled in from Honduras are being held here at the ICE office, where they were questioned by federal agents earlier Friday afternoon.

As for the alleged human traffickers, police told us they do have the names of the two people who leased that apartment, but do not know their whereabouts.

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