Neighbors had suspicions about Harris County home where migrants were held captive

Briana Conner Image
Thursday, May 11, 2023
7 migrants held for ransom in human smuggling stash house, HCSO says
A disturbance call led authorities to find multiple migrants being held against their will at a home in Harris County.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- In northwest Harris County, seven Guatemalan migrants who were hungry, bruised, and held against their will have been freed.

Investigators said smugglers called "coyotes" were holding them captive until relatives or friends could pay for their release. Now, the Harris County Sheriff's Office is heating up an investigation into this.

Someone kicked in the front door of a house in the Mt. Royal Village subdivision at about midnight on Wednesday. A neighbor called 911 to report what they thought was a burglary. When deputies arrived, they found what appeared to be a human smuggling operation.

The man who used to own the home said he had to come by to look at it for himself. Investigators said the smuggling operation that was happening inside was no longer kept secret behind closed doors.

The news spread quickly from neighbor to neighbor. None of them was willing to show their faces on camera, considering the dangers surrounding human smuggling. One man who lives along Morgensen Drive said deputies lined the street from about midnight until noon Wednesday.

He was stunned to learn the so-called "coyotes" were allegedly using the home across the street as a stash house, though he had his suspicions.

"I thought it may have been a drug house. I wasn't sure, but I kept my distance," he said. "I stayed over here. I mind my business, and they stayed over there. I never spoke. He never spoke."

The Precinct 1 Constable's Office released a video showing their human trafficking victims' services director speaking with the migrants. She offered them Shipley's donuts and water. It also showed the conditions they were being held in. There was no furniture inside the home except for pillows and blankets.

Investigators have not said what will happen to the migrants now or the "coyotes" accused of holding them captive. At least four suspects were running the smuggling operation, according to deputies. It is not clear if any of them are in custody.

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