More than 80 suspected illegal immigrants found stashed in small house

September 20, 2012 4:41:56 PM PDT
More than 80 suspected illegal immigrants were being held against their will at a stash house in southwest Harris County. The property manager told us he had no idea a smuggling operation was happening inside this home he only rented out days ago.

Disturbing images of dozens of illegal immigrants being rescued from a stash house in west Houston have neighbors on the 3400 block of Boxelder buzzing.

"Very shocked," said neighbor Lamar Nicholson. "I was surprised to find out they had so many people in that house, in that three bedroom house."

The conditions a group of human smugglers allegedly forced 82 men, women and children to bear inside the 1,600 square foot home are even more disturbing for those living nearby. Nicholson told me he never suspected a thing.

"You see it on Discovery Channel, you see it on the History Channel type stuff," he said. "But you would never think it would happen on your street."

From an uncovered window you can see a small living room. Its floor is trashed, covered with clothing, and debris.

Investigators say the gun and pistol-toting house guards forced everyone smuggled at the home to dress down to their underwear, in an effort to prevent them from running away. We also spotted a couple of air mattresses and several blankets bundled like makeshift pallets, possibly where some of 57 men and 17 women were allowed to sleep.

Near the fireplace there's a TV set and video games, possibly for the nine juveniles found at the home. One of those children is a 16-year-old girl from Nicaragua who was rescued before the raid on Wednesday. Her mom called police earlier this week saying the teen was kidnapped after smugglers demanded more money.

Neighbors say it's all still too much to take in.

"Everything seemed like a normal family, normal house," Nicholson said. "Then yesterday all of that came out of nowhere. It was a big surprise to all of us."

Investigators say they've identified four of the principal players in this smuggling operation. They are still questioning all of the detainees to determine if any more of the smugglers are trying to blend in with the group.


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