Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY
Police answering a 911 call at a home in North Houston Friday discovered four elderly men being held in a "dungeon" garage for as long as 10 years while residents allegedly confiscated their Social Security or veterans checks, according to local media reports.
KTRK-TV quoted police as saying at least one of the four -- ages 79, 54, 74 and about 65 --had been held against his will for 10 years.
Three men found Friday morning were unable to walk and were taken to a Houston hospital, KTRK reports. They appeared to be suffering from malnutrition.
"One of them seemed to think he was picked up off the street and brought here," said Police Sgt. JW McCoy, according to KTRK. "In exchange for beer and cigarettes and a place to stay, he had to turn over his Social Security check."
Although the men seemed to be in good health, they appeared to be invalids and may have been homeless.
Authorities were investigating whether four women found in the house were also being held against their will. Three had mental disabilities, and police described them as "witnesses," reported KPRC-TV, a CNN affiliate.
One neighbor told theChronicle that a mother, son, daughter and granddaughter all lived in the one-story house.
Authorities said one person at the house had been taken into custody.
The garage room had burglar bars, locked doors and only a single chair for furnishings, KHOU-TV said.
The Houston Chronicle quoted police Sgt. Steve Murdock as saying conditions in the home were "very deplorable," with some of the men sleeping on the linoleum floor.
"They were prisoners in that house," he said, according to the newspaper.