Human smuggling leader sentenced to 41 months after nearly 100 people found in Houston home in 2021

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Tuesday, May 2, 2023
5 face smuggling charge after 97 people found inside home
Federal charges into the human smuggling case revealed how nearly 100 undocumented people were kept inside the southwest Houston home.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A group of smugglers and its leader will serve time in prison in connection with the April 2021 discovery of nearly 100 undocumented people in a Houston-area home.

The video above is from a previous report.

The group's leader, 34-year-old Henry Licona-Larios of Copan, Honduras, pled guilty on May 24, 2022, for his role in the smuggling. On Tuesday, a judge sentenced him to 41 months in federal prison. Despite his sentencing, because he is not a U.S. Citizen, Licona-Larios is expected to face removal proceedings after his imprisonment, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

PREVIOUS STORY: More than 90 people found huddled in Houston home

Police were originally called to a kidnapping just off the South Beltway. Now, a possible human smuggling case is under investigation.

On April 30, 2021, HPD received reports of a possible kidnapping at a home at 12200 Chessington in southwest Houston. A woman reported that she had paid several thousand dollars for her brother to be smuggled into the country, but the smugglers demanded more money before they could release him. They also threatened to harm him if the money was not paid.

An investigation into the call led to police finding 97 undocumented citizens huddled inside two rooms of the two-story home. The rooms had deadbolts on the doors facing the outside, preventing escape. This prompted a human smuggling investigation.

During a recent hearing, the court heard additional evidence that detailed the inhumane conditions to which the victims were subjected and that Licona-Larios was connected to another stash house found in December 2020. In handing down the sentence, the court noted the seriousness of the offense and Licona-Lario's mistreatment of the victims.

Four others were also sentenced.

Marina Garcia-Diaz, 24, from El Salvador, received a 27-month sentence.

Marcelo Garcia-Palacios, 23, from Oaxaca, Mexico; Kevin Licona-Lopez, 27, from Santa Barbara, Honduras; and Marco Baca-Perez, 22, from Michoacan, Mexico, were ordered to serve 30 months.

All of them will face removal proceedings following their sentences.