HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM/CNN) — Five people have been charged with smuggling 97 undocumented immigrants into the United States and holding them hostage in two rooms of a house in Texas.
The group appeared before a judge in Houston on May 3.READ MORE: North Texans Dealing With Another Shortage Due To Pandemic: Boats
Neighbors to the home in Houston said the idea that so many people were packed into the house is stunning.
“I just pray they make it home, and the ones that did it — they need to be taken care with. Let them go to jail,” said Queidra Chaney, who lives nearby.
The five people arrested and charged range in age from 21 to 35 and according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office were living in the U.S. illegally.
According to the charges, deadbolts on the outside of the door prevented the 97 undocumented people from escaping the rooms. They were also made to strip down to their underwear. None of the victims were children and all but five were men.READ MORE: Police: 1 Dead In Shooting Between Vehicles On I-35E Service Road In Lancaster
Authorities in federal court referred to the five suspects as human smugglers. The Department of Justice said all of the accused “harbored, concealed and shielded illegal aliens for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain.”
Charges say they took money from families to get these individuals into the U.S. — but would hold him them hostage once they got here and demand more money, threatening to kill them if they made noise.
Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office say at least one person was told he would be put in ‘four pieces of wood’ if the additional money was not paid.
If convicted, the five alleged smugglers face up to 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.MORE NEWS: Suspect Wanted In Murder Of Victim Who Was Playing Soccer At Garland Apartments, Police Say
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