5 migrants held hostage in Fort Bend Co. home until 1 escapes and calls for help, officials say

Rosie Nguyen Image
Thursday, September 7, 2023
Migrant escapes kidnappers, rescues 4 hostages from Fort Bend Co. home
Three suspected human traffickers were arrested after a migrant escaped a Fort Bend Co. home and helped rescue four other hostages, deputies say.

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- A migrant held against their will after being smuggled into the United States made a harrowing escape to help free four other victims, according to the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office.

Immigration advocates said this is one part of a larger human smuggling issue seen in the Greater Houston area.

Last Wednesday, deputies responded to the call for a welfare check at a home near Meadow Hollow and Cedar Form at about 12 p.m.

They ultimately found five migrants who were smuggled to the U.S. and held captive for additional money for about two weeks.

Investigators said one of the victims escaped from the garage of the home, went to a nearby church, and alerted authorities that there were additional migrants who needed help.

In total, officials rescued three men and two women, who they believe came from Central American countries such as Guatemala and Honduras.

"Imagine what an unlit, hot garage in the Texas summer would be. That's exactly where they were being held. No windows, no doors, no air conditioning. Just concrete floor," Sgt. Justin Harris said.

Neighbors living in the Meadows Place neighborhood describe it as quiet and peaceful. They told ABC13 off-camera that they were surprised that something like this happened so close to home.

Immigration attorney Kim Bruno said, unfortunately, these types of cases are not isolated incidents in the Greater Houston area. She is not involved in this case but explains that human smugglers, or "coyotes," like to target vulnerable migrants, who believe they are paying to be safely escorted to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Instead, they are taken hostage and sometimes forced into labor or sex trafficking.

"These innocent people have no resources, no family, no way to contact someone if anyone were to harm them. So these human traffickers coerce them into believing that because they're here in the U.S. without any legal status, they are criminals, and if they go to anybody around them for help, they're going to be punished," Bruno said.

She added, "They have a right to obtain a legal status, which is huge, and they don't even know it because they are so afraid to leave their situation. There are nonprofits that provide resources, shelter, food, and healthcare for migrants."

Investigators arrested 24-year-old Jose Jose Aguirre, 22-year-old Jose Aguirre Martin, and 21-year-old Orlando Noe Betancur Flores. All three have been charged with smuggling of persons. Aguirre has an additional charge of aggravated kidnapping.

Martin and Flores' bonds have been set at $500,000. Aguirre's bond amount is still pending.

During a Wednesday press conference, Fort Bend County Sheriff Eric Fagan urged the public to keep an eye out for anything that might seem suspicious.

"Human trafficking is not what you see in the movies with a big kingpin. It could be your next-door neighbor. It could be anyone," Fagan said. "If you see vans coming to a home, if you see bars or locks on the outside of the home, if you see people bringing food to a certain part of the home and not going through the main part, say something."

Officials said they expect to make additional arrests in the case. The sheriff said the victims were released to Homeland Security.

For more on this story, follow Rosie Nguyen on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.