Arrests made, victims rescued, in human smuggling operation
An investigation into the kidnapping of a woman and child en route to Lee County from Mexico has led to the apprehension of at least four people investigators say were involved in a national human smuggling and extortion ring.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office became involved on May 23 after a woman told them her 30-year-old sister and 10-year old nephew had contracted with “coyotes” in Mexico to smuggle her into the United States. The woman and boy successfully entered the United States on May 18, and were to go to a pre-determined vehicle after crossing the border. From there they were to be transported to Lee County.
Unfortunately, the sister and nephew of the victim apparently entered the wrong vehicle after crossing the border, officials said. The vehicle they entered was operated by an organized group of kidnappers. Instead of being taken to Lee County, they were taken to various locations in Nevada and Arizona. The hostage takers began calling the complainant in Bonita Springs and demanding sums of money ranging from $5,600 to $10,000 for the safe release of the two captives. The victim could not raise the money and finally approached the Lee County Sheriff’s Office for assistance.
While the extortion victim was in the presence of investigators, the hostage takers were contacting the complainant continuing their demands for money. Through investigative means detectives were able to confirm the legitimacy of the situation. Once the information was fully developed, the Phoenix Police Department was contacted and provided with all available intelligence information. Investigators were able to determine the location of the victims and suspects, and a search warrant was executed on that location. Four armed offenders were taken into custody and a fifth escaped on foot, officials said Friday. Fifteen victims, ranging from ten to thirty years of age, were rescued from the hostage takers.
The kidnapping victims were kept in small, locked quarters in the compound where they were being held. Some were in poor health at the time of the arrest. All were transferred to the custody of DHS ICE after the incident. The captors were armed with handguns and at least one shotgun at the time of arrest.
Due to the collective efforts of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Phoenix Police Department IMPACT Unit, investigators were able to successfully bring the victims of this operation to safety, and arrest the perpetrators responsible,officials said.
Source: Lee County Sheriff’s Office