PHOENIX - Three Mexican citizens appeared in federal court Friday to face human smuggling charges following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation into a Phoenix drop house Wednesday night where agents detained 32 illegal aliens.
ICE agents conducting an investigation into a suspected human smuggling operation identified a possible drop house in the 3000 block of North 89th Avenue in Phoenix. Agents observed Samual Antonio Vasquez, an alleged human smuggler, pull into the garage driving a Pontiac Montana. Hours later, Vasquez departed the residence in a Nissan Sentra.
Agents stopped the Sentra, and inside discovered three Chinese females hiding under a blanket in the back seat. Agents arrested Vasquez, a 25-year-old citizen of Mexico, detained the Chinese aliens and returned to the drop house. Inside, agents discovered 29 additional illegal aliens from India, Ecuador, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. Two additional suspected human smugglers, Marcos Francisco-Salazar, 22, and Joaquin Santana, 27, both citizens of Mexico, were also arrested at the drop house.
"While Arizona is the busiest human smuggling corridor in the United States, it is unusual to find citizens from so many different countries in the same drop house," said Matt Allen, ICE special agent in charge of Arizona. "This is a good reminder to human smugglers that they are not welcome in our communities. We are out there looking for them, and when we find them they will be arrested and prosecuted."
So far this year, ICE and other law enforcement agencies have discovered more than 70 drop houses in Phoenix.
The three suspects made their initial appearance in federal court Friday on the human smuggling charges.
A criminal complaint is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.