HOUSTON (UPI) — More than 100 people were found inside a so-called “stash house” in Houston in what police said appeared to be a human smuggling operation.
Police went to the house Wednesday after a caller pleaded for help to save a family held by smugglers and found 110 people crammed in a rancid, ramshackle building where smugglers had imprisoned them to extort money from their relatives, the Houston Chronicle reported Thursday.
The tipster told authorities he was being extorted by the smugglers and he feared for the safety of relatives from Central America.
Police set up surveillance Wednesday. Two people were detained and three suspected smugglers were arrested as they tried to flee, Houston Police Department spokesman John Cannon said.
When authorities opened a door, they encountered a “sea of people coming at the officers as they entered,” Cannon said.
Federal agents, police, sheriff’s deputies and constables found the occupants packed into the home, hungry, thirsty and tired, the newspaper said. Some of the occupants said they had been in the house for a few days while others said they there for more than two weeks.
“The smell and conditions were just awful,” Cannon said, describing rooms littered with plastic trash bags and clothes, one toilet and no hot water.