Federal investigators discovered 37 smuggled undocumented aliens from six countries in a Riverside home Tuesday, officials said.
Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) were acting on a tip from a concerned family member when they found the undocumented aliens jammed inside a single bedroom, said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for ICE Office of HSI in Los Angeles.
An additional seven aliens linked to the same smuggling scheme were taken into custody earlier Tuesday as they were en route to other destinations in the Los Angeles area.
“This incident shows yet again the ruthlessness and brutality of the smuggling trade,” said Arnold. “While the volume of human smuggling activity in the Los Angeles area has declined in recent times due to stepped up enforcement and economic factors, the aggressiveness and violence exhibited by the smuggling organizations seems to be on the rise. Extortion, torture and physical violence are now commonplace in these cases.”
The Los Angeles Police Department had initially alerted ICE HSI of the possibility of a Riverside-area "drop house," officials said. The LAPD had been contacted by a relative of an individual being held by the smugglers.
A two-day investigation, that also included the deployment of an infra-red equipped helicopter, then allowed agents to narrow down the location and obtained a search warrant for 1879 Martin Luther King Blvd.
Investigators said all of the aliens had been stripped of their shoes and that some had gone several days without food. The investigation into the smuggling scheme is ongoing.
The 44 smuggled aliens are from six countries - Guatemala (16); El Salvador (16); Honduras (7), Mexico (2); Ecuador (2); and the Dominican Republic (1). The group includes 34 adult men, four adult women and six juveniles. The smuggled aliens remain in ICE custody at this time pending further review of their cases.