Nine Smugglers Arrested After Deputies Rescue 92 Illegal Aliens
LA PUENTE, Calif. (AP) _ Deputies rescued 92 illegal immigrants who were allegedly held captive inside a one-story house by nine smugglers demanding ransom, authorities said.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies said dozens of people had been locked inside a 8-by-20-foot room. Others were locked inside three small bedrooms.
″It was a terrible place,″ said Deputy Rich Erickson.
Acting on a tip, deputies Wednesday broke into the house in La Puente, about 25 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, and discovered the immigrants and nearly $19,000 in cash, sheriff’s Sgt. Bob Olmsted said.
The nine alleged captors were taken to the sheriff’s station in Industry, Deputy Mariano Zamudio said Thursday. Their identities were not immediately available.
Investigators believed they were so-called ″coyotes,″ people who make a clandestine business out of bringing immigrants illegally across the border.
Investigators said the smuggling ring likely had operated for some time, although some immigrants said they had been in the house for a few days.
The 92 people from El Salvador and Mexico were in the custody of Immigration and Naturalization Service officials.
According to Zamudio, the sheriff’s department and the INS were to determine what, if any, charges would be filed against the smugglers and to decide the fate of the illegal immigrants.
Olmsted said the smugglers allegedly had demanded up to $1,000 from relatives of the captives for their release. Many of the immigrants had already paid similar amounts to be transported to Los Angeles, he said.
Investigators raided the house after a relative of one of the captives told officials she was being forced to pay an additional $1,000 to free a nephew, Olmsted said.