2 Houstonians at large in connection to deadly human smuggling, kidnapping scheme, FBI says

Rosie Nguyen Image
Wednesday, August 2, 2023
Suspects wanted, allegedly held migrants hostage for ransom, FBI says
Two Houston-area suspects are on the run after eight others were arrested in connection to a major kidnapping for ransom scheme, FBI says.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A manhunt is underway for a Houston man and woman who are accused of being a part of a kidnapping for ransom scheme in March, according to the FBI.

Authorities held a press conference on Tuesday to talk about human trafficking in the area. During the presser, they said the search continues for Lorie Lin Flowers, 25, and Santiago Hernandez Jr., 26.

The FBI said the agency is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Hernandez Jr., and Flowers.

Law enforcement warns the public that the suspects are dangerous.

Hernandez and Flowers were charged with aiding and abetting kidnapping after several migrants were being held for ransom at two hotels in the Houston area.

"Do not put your life in the hands of a human smuggler," United States Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani said. "Your family will lose all their money, or worse, they will lose you."

Hernandez and Flowers are at large, while eight other suspects in the major scheme are in custody. One suspect was killed during a raid to save three hostages, and two other suspects are juveniles.

"We believe that Hernandez and Flowers are together and may be in Eagle Pass, Texas, or in Piedras Negras, Mexico," James Smith, FBI special agent in charge, said. "They also have ties to Houston."

RELATED: 17-year-old charged with kidnapping migrants following FBI raid at Greenspoint motel, records say

WATCH: Authorities hold presser about human trafficking, and 2 suspects wanted in Houston-area case

Houston-area authorities held a press conference about human trafficking. They said two suspects are on the run after eight others were arrested in connection to a major kidnapping

A timeline

March 18

Federal officials said a human smuggling operation began in Eagle Pass with six migrants traveling to Houston in a truck when a group of cars chased and shot at them. According to charging documents, 11 armed suspects kidnapped three of the migrants and forced them into their vehicle along I-10 East in Waller County.

The FBI says three other victims were shot and left at the scene. The suspects allegedly held the kidnapping victims hostage at two Houston-area hotels, where they recorded the migrants being beaten. The videos were used as leverage to the victims' families when demanding ransom money.

March 21

According to testimony presented in court, the kidnappers released two of the hostages, a man and woman, after their families paid the ransom.

March 23

Law enforcement conducted an operation and successfully rescued the remaining victim at the Studio 6 extended-stay motel off the Beltway. One of the 11 suspects was shot and killed by an FBI agent during the operation in the Greenspoint area, according to authorities. One of the several suspects were arrested by the Harris County Sheriff's Office.


SkyEye video shows a tarp covering the open door to one of the motel rooms. ABC13 watched agents go in and out of that room and another one two doors down.

July 25, 26

Authorities took Brian Martinez, 24, East Bernard, and Miguel Gonzalez, 33, Richmond, into custody on human smuggling charges.

Zachary Austin Palomo, 28, Alex Anthony Fisher, 26, and Brenda Roxana Serrano Figueroa, 25, all of Houston, have been and will remain in custody on kidnapping charges returned in May.

Christian Hernandez, 25, East Bernard, is in custody and expected to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam S. Sheldon at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. Gonzalez is on home confinement with restrictions, while Martinez is in custody pending a detention hearing set for Aug. 3.

If convicted, Hernandez, Flowers, Palomo, Figueroa, and Fisher face up to life in prison.

For bringing in and harboring certain aliens, Gonzalez, Cristian Hernandez, and Martinez could receive up to 10 years in federal prison upon conviction. All charges also carry a potential fine of $250,000.

SEE MORE: 1 killed in hostage rescue that ended in shooting involving FBI in Greenspoint area, agency says

The kidnapped migrants allegedly had crossed into the U.S. illegally from Mexico, according to a person familiar with the case.

All three of the rescued migrants will be part of the Victim Witness Program at the Department of Justice, where they will receive counseling and given resources.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Hernandez and Flowers, you are asked to contact 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324).

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