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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
05/03/2012

HSI rescues 4 from violent Phoenix human smuggling drop house

PHOENIX — Four Mexican nationals, including three suspected torture victims, were rescued from a human smuggling drop house Wednesday by special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) assigned to the Phoenix Border Enforcement Security Task Force Drop House Response Group, with support from the Phoenix Police Department.

Following their rescue Wednesday, three of the hostages told HSI investigators their captors had beaten, sexually assaulted and attacked them with a stun gun. One man had been stabbed.

The four were freed after HSI special agents developed information that suspected human smugglers were operating out of a residence located near 83rd Avenue and Osborn. Based upon that information, investigators initiated surveillance of the house and subsequently observed a vehicle enter its garage only to leave a short time later. Special agents stopped the vehicle, discovered $7,200 in the vehicle, and apprehended two suspected smugglers and two recently smuggled Mexican nationals. Shortly after the vehicle stop, agents observed three other men leave the residence on bicycle and on foot. All three were identified as suspected smugglers and apprehended.  

When HSI special agents and Phoenix Police Department officers entered the residence, they discovered four male Mexican nationals in a bedroom. Two of the men were bound with rope around their ankles, and a third man had been stabbed recently on his upper back. All three had other visible injuries consistent with being physically abused. The fourth man appeared physically unharmed.

The stabbing victim was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and later released to authorities. The other three men were evaluated and treated as needed by the Phoenix Fire Department at the scene. All four of the men are now in ICE custody and receiving victim services.

"Tragically, this case shows yet again the brutality of the human smuggling trade," said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of HSI Arizona. "To the smugglers, these human beings are nothing more than a business commodity. They have no qualms about using ruthless violence in an effort to collect their smuggling fees. HSI is fully committed to disrupting this violent activity and dismantling the criminal organizations involved."

The five suspected smugglers, all of whom are Mexican nationals, were arrested by the Phoenix Police Department and booked into the Maricopa County Jail Thursday on kidnapping, aggravated assault, sexual assault and extortion charges. They are expected to make their initial court appearance late Thursday. The five may also face future federal charges.  

The investigation is ongoing.

HSI established the Drop House Response Group in September 2009 to identify, target and dismantle the infrastructure used by human smuggling organizations operating in the Phoenix metropolitan area.