12 people rescued, 3 arrests in human smuggling case

- Three people have been charged with human smuggling after Houston police removed a dozen people, including a minor girl, from a hot locked cargo bay of a box truck, according to a statement released by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office on Monday.

Ten men, one woman and the girl are recovering from the incident and are in custody. They were removed from a Penske rental truck parked in a lot on Harwin Drive near Fondren Road in southwest Houston.

“There is no good season for human trafficking, but summer time in Houston has to be the worst,” said Harris County First Assistant District Attorney Tom Berg in the statement.

“Thirty more minutes and this could have been a dozen homicide cases,” added Berg. “The quick action of the Houston Police is commendable.”

All of the people who were in the truck cargo bay are believed to be from Latin America.

Officers found the truck on Sunday afternoon and discovered the people inside the cargo bay where temperatures were 100 degrees or hotter.

Police say the people locked in the truck were soaked in sweat, suffering from exhaustion and had been banging on the walls of the truck for hours for someone to free them.

After investigators reviewed security camera footage, they determined that the truck had been parked in the lot throughout the day.

Houston police and the human-trafficking section of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office are conducting an investigation into the incident.

Priscila Perez Beltran, 21, Adela Alvarez, 26, and Nelson Cortes Garcia, 27, are all charged in the human trafficking case. Prosecutors said the charges will be upgraded based on the substantial likelihood of bodily injury or death faced by the smuggling victims.

Beltran, Alvarez and Garcia each face a sentenced of between two and twenty years in prison if convicted. 
They are each being held on $300,000 bail and are scheduled to appear in the 351st District Court to be arraigned on Tuesday.

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