A pair of Texas “smugglers” was busted for kidnapping an illegal Honduran immigrant and then running over the man’s aunt when she couldn’t cough up thousands of dollars in ransom, according to local law enforcement officials.
Police in Rosenberg, Texas, received a 911 call on July 15 about a possible kidnapping by a man and woman at a shopping mall parking lot outside Houston late Thursday.
“Officers responded and learned that a woman was attempting to purchase her nephew from human smugglers in the parking lot of Brazos Town Center. When they could not agree on a purchase price the smugglers sped off with the woman’s nephew, striking her with their vehicle,” the Rosenberg Police Department said in a statement. “The suspect vehicle fled the scene and was last seen headed south on US Hwy 59.”
The woman survived but her condition was not released.
A spokesman for the Victoria County Sheriff’s Department told The Post that deputies located the at-large Cadillac Escalade on US Highway 59-South shortly before 1 a.m. CT Friday. Inside the vehicle, deputies found Ricardo Mejia and Amy Regalado in the front seat and took them into custody.
The unnamed Honduran man was found safe in the backseat. Rosenberg police identified him as 21 years old, while the Victoria County Sheriff’s Department said he was 19.
Rosenberg detectives determined that the Honduran migrant had paid a cartel to get him into the United States by way of the southern border. The man was sold between smugglers as he was transported through Mexico, then placed in “stash houses,” which are residences where smugglers “stash” dozens of migrants before they move them to the next destination. The houses are often severely overcrowded with anywhere from 30 to 100 people held in facilities with one toilet, no food and no water for days.
“He was later dumped in an uninhabited area in South Texas due to a perceived law enforcement threat or presence,” Rosenberg police said. “The young man wandered for days before coming upon a gas station where he approached a random person and asked for help.”
However, the person at the gas station who offered to help the Honduran man called family members who themselves were involved in human smuggling, unbeknownst to the victim. The couple, Mejia and Regalado, showed up to the gas station and took the man, only agreeing to let him go if his family agreed to pay a $6,000 ransom.
The man’s aunt agreed to meet the three of them at the Brazos Town Center on Thursday night to make the trade, but the deal fell apart when the family member indicated that she was unable to pay the full $6,000. The kidnappers sped off with the young man in the SUV, driving over the man’s aunt as they attempted to get away.
“Local law enforcement agencies did an outstanding job putting a stop to a criminal episode that spanned international borders. It is shameful in this day and age, in a country that leads the free world, to have people bought and sold like animals. The most significant aspect of this tragedy is that this young man escaped, reached out for help, and was returned to captivity. This is the definition of evil,” Rosenberg Police Assistant Chief Jarret Nethery said in a statement.
The couple, whose citizenship has not been revealed by law enforcement, have been charged with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault.