HOUSTON - Three men were indicted by a federal grand jury for harboring and holding aliens hostage in a southwest Houston residence and demanding thousands of dollars from families for their release announced United States Attorney Tim Johnson on Thursday. The investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Alex Julca, 24, a U.S. a legal permanent resident, along with Francisco Gomez, 40, and Rigoberto Jaimes-Vargas, 27, both Mexican citizens; were charged in an eight-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Thursday. The three men charged have been in custody without bond since their August arrest and are expected to appear for arraignment in the near future.
According to court documents, the ICE investigation leading to today's charges was initiated after a woman in Virginia called the Fairfax County Police Department on Aug. 28, claiming a man was forcing her to pay thousands of dollars for her brother's release from a Houston area stash house. The woman claimed her brother had paid smugglers to bring him to the United States and that she paid $3000 in two separate installments. She decided to call police when additional sums were demanded by the smugglers. This information was conveyed to the FBI office in Virginia who in turn notified ICE. Houston ICE agents located the stash house in Houston and during an enforcement action on Aug. 29, agents found 11 men, including the Virginia woman's brother, at the residence on Ashford Green Lane in southwest Houston.
According to the complaint, the men being held were aliens who had been illegally smuggled into the country. The smuggled aliens claimed, according to the complaint, that while the guards fed them, the guards were armed, beating and threatening the men. Upon arriving at the stash house, the complaint alleges the smuggled men were stripped of their clothing to prevent escape and their mouths were often taped shut. Some men were allegedly sexually abused. The men were often held for several days until their families sent the additional money demanded for their release.
Julca, Jaimes-Vargas and Gomez, who were at the residence when ICE arrived, were arrested and jailed. Agents also recovered a firearm at the scene.
If convicted on any one of the four hostage taking counts, Julca and Gomez face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. If convicted of any one of the four alien harboring counts, all three defendants face a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Hays Jenkins and Special Assistant United States Attorney Daniel Menes.