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Horrific “Stash” House Highlights Desperation of Illegal Immigration

Horrific “Stash” House Highlights Desperation of Illegal Immigration

It started with a phone call. A woman was worried about her daughter and two grandchildren. They were supposed to arrive in Houston and they never arrived. When she called the Houston Police Department she was taking a great risk – but she knew her family was in danger. After all, she had paid a smuggler $15,000 to bring them here.

She had paid a smuggler to bring her family from Central America. Prior to crossing into the United States, her daughter and grandchildren, ages five and seven, had to risk going through Mexico. They had to risk kidnapping, robbery, sexual assault, extortion and even death. The Mexican drug cartels and even some government officials prey on the desperation of those who cross into their country on their way to their final destination – which may or may not be the United States. Mexico is the first obstacle for the thousands that make the attempt every year. Many never make it. When the woman’s family didn’t show up at the drop off destination, she received a call from the smuggler demanding an additional $13,000 if she wanted to see her family safely delivered to Chicago. She at least knew her daughter and grandchildren were alive.

The information the woman gave the Houston Police Department led them to a 1,284 square foot house on Alameda School Road in south Harris County. They set up surveillance on a Wednesday morning, March 19, 2014.  About 10:00 a.m., they stopped two men in a vehicle leaving the house. While interrogating them, they noticed a semi-automatic weapon poking out from underneath the seat.

That stop led to the discovery of 115 men, women and children half naked living in a sea of filth in the boarded up house.

Investigators found the people, most believed to be from Central America, living in the cramped house with one barely working toilet. The windows were boarded up and all the doors were padlocked. Their clothes and shoes had been taken from them so that they could not escape. Some had been there for only a few days, some as long as a few weeks. They ranged in age from 5-47. The youngest two were the grandchildren of the woman who called the police.

In all, 99 men, 16 women (including one who was pregnant), and 19 juveniles were found in the stash house. They were held there while the smugglers demanded more money from their families. They were from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico. They were on their way to places as varied as New York, Chicago and Georgia. All of them were in search of something better than what they left.

Now their fates are even more uncertain.

All of the people found in the house, except for the pregnant woman, were taken to detention centers where they were interviewed and checked out medically. The pregnant woman was taken first to the hospital. Three of the juveniles have been reunited with their families. The rest of the cases are being reviewed on a case by case basis as the U.S. Government and foreign officials in the four countries determine the circumstances that led to their discovery at the house.

The issue now for investigators is whether they will label this a case of human smuggling or trafficking. It appears obvious that all of this started off as a case of human smuggling, which is a crime against the United States, but smuggling cases can often turn into trafficking cases, which is a crime against a person. The latter provides a designation of victim and gives them additional avenues of redress, including the possibility of remaining in the United States. Victims of certain crimes may also be allowed to remain.

One investigator said that at least 12 of the people could be material witnesses against the five men who were arrested as the kidnappers and operators of the stash house. They were charged with a variety of federal offenses, including hostage taking, alien in possession of a firearm and conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. As material witnesses, they could be allowed to remain in the United States under certain circumstances.

The special agent in charge of Houston’s Homeland Security Operations, Brian Moskowitz, says that the options for his department on how to deal with the situation are bound by federal law. “As horrific as some of these things are, you could be chained to a wall and beat,” he said. “But unless it meets the elements in the laws that [Congress has] passed, it’s not trafficking under the federal level and our hands are tied.”

In the end, most will likely end up deported back to where they started their long and horrific journey.

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119 comments

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12:11PM PDT on Jun 29, 2014

Those were the lucky ones to make it out alive... Now the sad part - they are back where they started - poorer for the lesson.

1:27AM PDT on Apr 12, 2014

I had never heard of such a thing as "stash houses" before - and now to hear from some here that these are "common"..... !!!!!

To add my 2 cents worth, if the Pope had okayed Birth Control in Catholic countries in South America and Mexico, then families wouldn't be so large, there wouldn't be as much unemployment, families would not have more children than they could take care of, the land wouldn't be so exploited for food and resources....
Sure, there are a lot of problems COMBINED here -
but, over-population is where it all BEGINS. I blame the Pope and the Catholic Church, they're not the only ones, but they ARE TO BLAME.

1:21AM PDT on Apr 12, 2014

Lots of SPAM has been flagged and thank goodness has been removed.
HERE IS WHAT MOST OF THE SPAM REALLY IS:

If it says a version of "Make easy money at home from your computer",
then the link given, will take you to a site where you will be ASKED TO BREAK FEDERAL LAW by Money Laundering with your computer, supposedly for a slice of the money {which you will never actually see}. You can be prosecuted in Federal Court, while the CRIMINAL GANG behind all these ads, never suffers the slightest discomfort because they are not even in the US!
There are a bunch of us DOING RESEARCH on this - we can give you several REFERENCES if you ask: krebsonsecurity.com is one of them. Please warn your friends of this DANGER!
These ads are NOT what they seem, and the names and pics are just come-ons, they are STOLEN identities used by the crooks as fronts.
Cyber-crime like this is a HUGE business.....

8:52PM PDT on Apr 10, 2014

Well when you have liberal politicians, and now Republicans, encouraging them to come suck off America's teat by considering their needs above the citizenry, who is to blame? I have no sympathy for their choice to break the law and our politicians' policies encouraging their desire to do so. When Middle East terrorists get busted in one of these shacks, I don't suppose the liberal fanatics will be as outraged by their "plight" unless there are enough of them to become a significant voting base.

1:33PM PDT on Apr 9, 2014

THESE STASH HOUSES ARE QUITE COMMON HERE IN HOUSTON......YET THAT WAS A LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE AND THAT DEFINITELY HIT NATIONAL NEWS....IT'S SAD TO SEE MANS' INHUMANITY AGAINST HIS FELLOW MAN. I PRAY THESE PEOPLE FIND THEIR WAY.......

10:46AM PDT on Apr 9, 2014

Do you think that the people who make money form human trafficking and human and drug smuggling have any humanity or compassion in them? They are stone cold criminals of the worse kind. What makes you think that they would have any kind of honor? The $15 thousand would have served the family much better if the money was used to improve their living conditions in their home country or to go through legal immigration channels. Folks make these choices out of desperation and think that because they may have personally made it into the USA safely through illegal means that the same will work for their loved ones. Things have changed, people are more desperate than ever and the criminals sad to say are have improved their criminal skills and are even less humane.

2:28PM PDT on Apr 8, 2014

What a shame.

7:47PM PDT on Apr 7, 2014

Sad.

12:28PM PDT on Apr 7, 2014

As long as injustice, desparation, hope, promise, and trust mix with corruption, smuggling, trafficking marketers and the customers eager for their "product", plus minimum border patrol and ICE restrictions making law enforcement nearly impossible, this will continue and get worse the easier it becomes.

Add the daily drug mules crossing back and forth. What did you expect other than release and return ... or enslaved for a lifetime (or until payment is made in full).

Check out Dennis Michael Lewis documentary filmed on the ground and in the trenches with those trying to do their job in spite of all the roadblocks set up by our own Government -- it's a real eye-opener

8:11AM PDT on Apr 7, 2014

"She had paid a smuggler to bring her family from Central America. Prior to crossing into the United States, her daughter and grandchildren, ages five and seven, had to risk going through Mexico. They had to risk kidnapping, robbery, sexual assault, extortion and even death." If true - don't do it. Stop breaking US laws. Immigrate legally. Next question? Sorry for being harsh.

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Colleen H. Colleen H. is an Online Campaigner with Care2 and a recent transplant to San Francisco from the East... more
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