Three Mexican men face federal charges after they were arrested Friday at a west Valley drop house.
Francisco Javier Astorga-Velarde, 22; Jose Pedro Soto Valdez, 32; and Noel Galdinez-Marmolejo, 32, appeared in federal court Monday, where they were charged in a federal complaint with conspiring to harbor undocumented immigrants.
Special agents from Homeland Security Investigations said they were first alerted to the drop house Dec. 5 after a woman contacted HSI Atlanta to report that a man was demanding she pay him $4,000 or he would kill her niece, who was allegedly being held hostage in a drop house in Phoenix.
HSI Atlanta alerted HSI Phoenix special agents, who worked around the clock to develop information on the possible location of the drop house. By Friday morning, special agents said they had reason to believe the woman was being held at a home on West Highland Avenue.
When special agents and Phoenix police got to the house, they saw the three men flee from the back door. The trio ran back inside the house after seeing police.
Special agents approached the back door and called to the occupants of the house to come outside. The men emerged and were taken into custody.
Fearing for the safety of the people inside, special agents entered the house and discovered 14 smuggled undocumented immigrants, including the niece of the woman who alerted authorities.
Special agents obtained a federal search warrant and discovered two 9mm handguns when they searched the house.
According to the criminal complaint, Astorga-Velarde is suspected to have served as the "boss" of the house. He is alleged to have hit two male victims in the face with a gun and to have called the wife of one of the men, threatening to kill her husband if she did not pay his smuggling fee.
Astorga-Velarde is also accused of threatening a female alien with sexual assault and of threatening to cut her into pieces and throw her in the trash.
The complaint also alleges that Galdinez-Marmolejo used a gun to hit one of the male victims on the head, face, hands and feet.
Soto-Valdez is alleged to have beaten the male victim with the guns and threatened to sexually assault, cut, kill or sell the female immigrants in the house if their smuggling fees were not paid.
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