On Wednesday morning, police in Edinburg, Texas received a phone call from an immigrant trapped inside a so-called "stash house." The caller said that more than 100 people were locked inside and that they had gone days without food or water, the Monitor reported.
Police arrived to find rental homes at the end of a dirt road. The windows were sealed with bars and the doors were locked with chains and padlocks. “It was crazy,” said Lt. Oscar Treviño told the Monitor.
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The two men who own the houses have since been charged with conspiring to harbor illegal immigrants, the Associated Press reported. Vicente Ortiz Soto and Marcial Salas Gardunio are accused of smuggling the immigrants and then keeping 115 immigrants locked inside the stash house. Salas told investigators that Ortiz paid him $500 per week to smuggle immigrants.
"There was no way that they could leave because the doors were secured with burglar bars and were locked from the outside," an Edinburg police spokesman told BBC News. Officers had to use bolt cutters to free the prisoners. The immigrant witnesses come from south and central America, and told officers that they had been driven to the stash house from the Rio Grande river, which marks the border between Texas and Mexico.
The Monitor reported that there has been a recent spike in stash house discoveries in the Rio Grande Valley, and at least 1,000 illegal immigrants have been apprehended since October.