Four homeless men found living in "deplorable conditions" in a Houston garage told police Friday they were held captive after being lured by promises of food and cigarettes so their captors could cash their public-assistance checks.
Three of the four men, who range in age from mid-50s to 80 years old, were malnourished and taken to a hospital after being discovered by police responding to a 911 call from a neighbor about the home. Sgt. Steven Murdock described the living conditions as like a "dungeon."
At least one of the men is a military veteran.
Investigators have yet to determine how long the men were held captive there, but they said it could have been weeks.
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The men told investigators they were forced to live in the home's garage — which had only one chair, no bed and a malfunctioning air conditioner — so their captors could cash their assistance checks. Police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said they were "given scraps to eat."
"They clearly stated to us they were being kept against their will," she said.
Police are also investigating whether four women found at the house were being held captive as well. Three of the women — a grandmother, daughter and granddaughter — have been described as mentally disabled. The fourth woman appeared to be a caretaker.
Police described living conditions inside the home itself as more normal.
One person, who did not appear to live in the house, has been detained, but no charges have been filed.