HOUSTON – Three people are charged with human smuggling after a dozen people, including a girl, were rescued by police from the sweltering cargo bay of a box truck, where they had been locked inside.
According to prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, the Penske rental truck found in the parking lot of a strip center in the 7600 Harwin, held 10 men, one woman and the girl, who are recovering from the ordeal and remain in custody.
“There is no good season for human trafficking, but summer time in Houston has to be the worst,” Harris County First Assistant District Attorney Tom Berg said.
“Thirty more minutes and this could have been a dozen homicide cases,” Berg added. “The quick action of the Houston Police is commendable.”
All of the people who were smuggled are believed to be from Latin America.
Officers discovered the truck Sunday afternoon, and found the human cargo inside. They had been closed up inside, where temperatures were in excess of 100 degrees.
The DA’s Office said the people were soaked in sweat, exhausted and had been banging on the walls of the truck for hours for someone to let them out.
Security camera footage later reviewed by investigators showed the truck had been parked in the lot throughout the day.
The case remains under investigation by police and the human-trafficking section of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
Those charged with trafficking persons are Priscila Perez Beltran, 21; Adela Alvarez, 26; and Nelson Cortes Garcia, 27.
The charges are being enhanced due to the substantial likelihood of bodily injury or death faced by those who were smuggled, according to prosecutors.
The defendants face two to 20 years in prison, if convicted.
They are being held on $300,000 bail a piece and are due to appear Tuesday in the 351st District Court for arraignments.
© 2017 KHOU-TV