Possible human smuggling operation found

February 23, 2010 5:11:56 PM PST
In northwest Harris County investigators are on the scene of what could be a human smuggling operation. Around 2:30pm deputies got a call that people were being held against their will in a home on Trail Valley at Antoine. When they arrived they found 23 people -- 18 males and five females. They believe they were all being used for forced labor.

Deputies say the people range in age from 17 to possibly in their 50s. All are believed to be in the US illegally. Deputies received an anonymous call from a friend of one of the people who managed to escape the home yesterday.

Deputies believe the people were smuggled into the country for a price and forced to work to pay off the debt. Some of that debt could be as high as $9,000.

The raid happened right across from Shotwell Middle School. Deputies say the school was put on lockdown while they did their investigation.

The individuals have been taken to an ICE detention center. Immigration officials continue to interview the couple who own the home. Investigators believe federal charges will likely be filed.