TIME Crime

Cops Find 100 People in Texas Home in Apparent Smuggling Bust

Suspected Human Smuggling Houston
Cody Duty—Houston Chronicle/AP Authorities search people, Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in southeast Houston.

Police in Houston find more than 100 people crammed into a 1,500-square-foot, single-family house while searching for a woman who was reported missing. Most are from Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador

Houston police searching for a woman who had been reported missing by her family discovered a house overflowing with more than 100 people Wednesday in what appeared to be part of a human smuggling operation.

Police discovered the home just outside Houston while searching for a 24-year-old woman who had been reported missing, along with her two young children, the Associated Press reports. When they searched the home, they found 94 men—all in their undergarments and without shoes—and 15 women (including the missing woman and her children) in a 1,500-square-foot house. The people were lying in filth in several small rooms with access to only one bathroom, the AP reports.

Police spokesman John Cannon said most of the people had been in the home for a few days, and one woman said she had been there more than two weeks. “It was just filth, very squalid-like conditions inside,” Cannon said. “Trash bags with clothing piled as high as you can see. … Some were just sitting on top of one another because there was just no room.”

Houston police handed over investigation of the matter to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which said the people in the home were primarily from Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador. A pregnant woman and a man were taken to the hospital for treatment, and all others will be fed and questioned. A spokesman for ICE told the AP it was too early in the investigation to say whether the house was part of a human trafficking operation, but it appeared that way.

The ICE spokesman also said it has been years since police discovered a house in the Houston area with that many people inside; in 2012, police found a house containing 86 people.


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