Nearly 30 found in Texas smuggling operation, 1 man arrested

People are handcuffed together in pairs and loaded into vans as police investigate a possible human smuggling operation, Thursday night, Dec. 4, 2020, in Houston. About 30 people were taken to the gymnasium of nearby a elementary school and were eventually transported away. Investigators say the victims came from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Cuba. (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)

HOUSTON (AP) — An Honduran man was charged on Friday with harboring after he was found keeping watch of more than two dozen people who authorities say were being held in a Houston home as part of a human smuggling operation, according to a federal prosecutor.

The smuggling operation was discovered Thursday evening after one of the men who was being kept inside the home escaped and was seen running down a residential street in his underwear, yelling that he had been kidnapped, Houston police said.

Authorities determined that 28 men and one woman who had illegally immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Cuba were being kept in the home, according to U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. The immigrants were only wearing undergarments when they were found.

Law enforcement gather near a home where they were investigating a possible human smuggling operation, Thursday night, Dec. 4, 2020, in Houston. About 30 people were taken to the gymnasium of nearby a elementary school and were eventually transported away. Investigators say the victims came from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Cuba. (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The home had boarded-up windows and deadbolt locks on the inside doors.

After their discovery, the immigrants were taken to a school gymnasium to get out of the cold, police said.

At the home, authorities also found 36-year-old Mauro Dominguez-Maldonado, who prosecutors allege was in charge of watching the immigrants and performing other duties as part of the smuggling operation.

Dominguez-Maldonado, who authorities say was living illegally in Houston, was arrested and later charged with harboring. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible fine of up to $250,000 if convicted.

Dominguez-Maldonado was set to appear before a magistrate judge on Monday. Court records did not list an attorney for him.

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