May 4, 2012 / 12:55 AM / 7 years ago

Two arrested after immigrants found stashed in Texas houses

EDINBURG, Texas (Reuters) - Two men face charges of harboring illegal immigrants after authorities found 115 migrants inside three small South Texas houses, some of whom had not had access to food or water for days, federal court records published on Thursday showed.

Police responded to an emergency call on Wednesday from an immigrant inside one of the stash houses.

The home was bound with padlocks and chains from the outside, with bars covering the windows, said Oscar Trevino, a police spokesman in Edinburg, about 15 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The caller said he was locked inside the house with about 50 other immigrants.

When the officers arrived, several immigrants fled from two nearby houses, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Officers turned the migrants over to Border Patrol agents. They told police they had not been given water or food for at least three days, and seven people were taken to a hospital for treatment for dehydration, Trevino said.

“It was crazy,” Trevino said. “There was no water, no light - nothing in there.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby ordered Vicente Ortiz Soto and Marcial Salas Gardunio, both 24-year-old Mexican citizens, to remain in custody before a detention hearing set for Monday.

One immigrant — a Honduran man — told an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent that Salas would greet each new immigrant by saying, “Welcome to Hell,” and would give them little food while locked in the house, the complaint said.

Another immigrant said Salas drove the immigrants to the houses from the Rio Grande on the U.S.-Mexico border and had threatened to beat or kill them if they did not remain quiet, the complaint said.

Ortiz is accused of driving immigrants to the stash houses from the border and selling them snacks, the complaint said. It added that Salas told agents that Ortiz paid him $500 a week to help smuggle, track and guard the immigrants.

In Arizona on Thursday, federal agents said they rescued four illegal immigrants from a stash house in Phoenix, where three had been beaten, sexually assaulted and shocked with a stun gun by their alleged captors.

Two of the men were found bound with rope around their ankles in a bedroom, while a third man had been stabbed recently on his upper back, Immigration and Custom Enforcement said in a news release. Five suspected smugglers, all Mexican nationals, were arrested.

Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Peter Cooney

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