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Federal agents find 14 suspected illegal immigrants in Reseda 'drop house'


Federal agents Monday were investigating a suspected “drop house” in Reseda, where 14 suspected illegal immigrants, mostly Central Americans, were being held against their will, officials said.

Los Angeles police responded late Sunday to the single-story stucco home in the 7900 block of Newcastle Avenue after one of the captives dialed 911 on a cellphone and reported that captors were not allowing anyone to leave, authorities said.

  “The smugglers were attempting to extort more money from their relatives before releasing them or moving them to onward destinations,” said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Interviews with the 14 — including 10 men and four women — revealed that smugglers had charged them between $5,000 and $7,000 each to transport them into the United States, Kice said. The prices are typical, she said.

It is not uncommon for human-smugglers, known as coyotes, to hold their charges against their will until full payment is received, often from relatives already in the United States, officials say. In this case, Kice said, the coyotes appear to have fled once law enforcement moved in, leaving the migrants alone in the home.

“No one in custody appears to be complicit with the smuggling plot,” Kice said.

The 14 were comprised of 10 Guatemalans, three Salvadorans and one citizen of the Dominican Republic, Kice said. Two were juveniles. All appeared to be illegal immigrants, the spokeswoman noted.

All were in relatively good health, Kice said, showing no outward signs of trauma. None complained of mistreatment, other than being held against their will at the home, she said.

If the smuggling case advances, some could be held as witnesses, while others will be processed for return  to their home countries.

“We’re following any leads in the case and we’ll see where that takes us,” Kice said.

No weapons were found at the scene, Kice said, but investigators did discover ledgers and other paperwork likely linked to the smuggling scheme. Smugglers typically use such drop houses as staging areas for immigrants recently smuggled in via the U.S.-Mexico border.

The migrants generally remain at the homes until the smugglers arrange to move them to their ultimate destinations. Migrants depend on the coyotes for their transport but face being victimized by them.

Human trafficking is a major industry along the U.S.-Mexico border, with tentacles stretching throughout the United States, Mexico, Central America and elsewhere. Smugglers seek full payment before final delivery of their clients, authorities say, sometimes holding migrants hostage until the bill is paid.

In some cases, Kice said, officials have found safe houses locked from the outside and with all the windows barred to prevent anyone from leaving. Cross-border traffic of undocumented immigrants has slowed as the U.S. economy slumped, officials say, but many continue to come north illegally, often seeking to reunite with loved ones already in the United States.

Currently, Kice said, authorities discover about one drop house a month in the Los Angeles area. Many others are never found, as the illegal immigrants are moved on to U.S. cities and towns, never attracting the attention of law enforcement.

-- Patrick J. McDonnell

Photos: Top,  Los Angeles police officers check a house Monday morning at 7942 Newcastle Ave. near Strathern Street in Reseda, where several suspected illegal immigrants reported being held against their will.  Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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Comments () | Archives (26)

I feel terrible for the immigrants. They come to America seeking opportunity. They have to cough up $5K plus that they cannot afford, suffer inhumane treatment, and live practically the rest of their lives in the land of opportunity working low-wage jobs that the average American wouldn't even consider doing. On the other hand, here are the so-called coyotes who overcharge immigrants to get smuggled to the other side. In many cases, they are Hispanics that come from families of the same background. Obviously something's wrong here.

Too bad for them. If they could have hung out around Home Depot for a few months they could have have received the upcoming amnesty and have the rest of their relatives flown up in the name of 'compassion'.

Of course, they would then be registered and bused in to vote by ACORN using federal funding, but don't be concerned, this is not a plan by the 'progressives' to retain and expand power.

Ok, everyone to the bus, driver head back to the border and ensure they get back to Mexico safely.

Do it legally! Enough said. Why should they be given special treatment and given automatic citizenship? Obama-mama will take care of them by giving automatic citizenship.

“No one in custody appears to be complicit with the smuggling plot,” Kice said.

Uh..... aren't the 14 ILLEGAL immigrants complicit in the smuggling plot?

I love how the L.A. Times twists this story around to put all the guilty emphasis on the smugglers while making out the illegals to be completely innocent victims of a crime.


Gavin, since you "feel terrible" for these law breakers, why don't you let these illegal aliens live in your home? Should the smuggling case advance, during their stay you can feed and cloth them, and pay for their educational and medical needs. This way they won't be a burden to the U.S. taxpayers, like the 12 million illegals that this country already subsidizes.

P.S. - - They are NOT "undocumented immigrants". They are ILLEGAL ALIENS. Please cut the politically correct malarkey, L.A. Times. Your bias is showing....

When the authorities in this Country will stop using the word "Immigrants" ??

In any part of the world, (And including Mexico, and Central america) will use the word "Intruders".

Because that's what they are. And by using the word Immigrants (is an insult.

Yes, Secretary Napolitano, Our borders are secure. The system is working?

By not enforcing it's immigration laws and securing it's borders, the U.S. is complicit in human trafficing. Shame on the U.S.

gavin? is the light on in your brain. americans would not consider low paying jobs? only the illegals, that's why YOU need them. well bobo, why don't you come to arizona. most of the minimum wage jobs here are held by WHITE AMERICANS, except fo phoenix which has one of the largest ILLEGAL populations in the us, despite the efforts of sheriff JOE ARPAIO.it's people LIKE YOU who encourade illegal immigration. you probably employ them in jobs you are too goo to do. so bobo, if you can't be part of the solution, you are the problem.

Why wasn't anything reported as to the landlord or owner of the property?

Could it be that the person has a record of being involved in criminal activity previously? Nobody rents out a property without learning something of the person seeking the rental.

And so were these illegals immediately deported? Or was ICE stupid enough to release them and expect them to appear in court when they are suppose to?

Illegal aliens..ILLEGAL is the operative word here!

Other countries ..INCLUDING Mexico won't tolerate it..why are we expected to?

There are many many Americans who are ready willing and able to take those jobs..so that excuse is just that..a lame excuse.

To those that participate in the transportation and housing of this activity..they should be fully prosecuted and their property must be confiscated, sold. And if they are found to be non-citizens..they should be expelled also!

I think the coyotes disappeared because Dexter got to them first.

"All appeared to be illegal immigrants, the spokeswoman noted.".... ah ha! what a revelation... no, you don't say? How can that be????

As a fully naturalized LEGAL immigrant from Europe, I can just tell you: people who are found at a "drop house" are NOT LEGAL. I certainly was not sitting on the floor, captive in some shack house in 1986.

Geez, talk about political correctness... please don't insult our intelligence.

Actually correct term from Immigration law is Illegal Alien. Hopefully, all the illegals will be deported after they testify against these coyotes. Crossing our Borders illegally is a misdemenor crossing our border after deported is a Felony. Working with fraudulent social security number to obtain employment is another felony. Question with all these criminal acts why would America want to grant these people citzenship?There are millions of illegals using fraudulent socail security numbers. Taking away many legal California workers jobs. It is time to mandate E-verify for the state of California. ( verifcation of your social security number prior to employment).Thank-you

people will do what they have to to survive and prosper.
some people will cut throats and steal and take advantage of others... it's just as much the American way as it is the world's way when it comes to the fight for resources.

there is no such thing as entering the US the legal way unless you're "lucky" enough to be a refugee from a war torn environment or you have money to give the government. entering the US legally if you're latino means waiting 10-15 years perhaps.

spending more than a year's salary to come here at the high probability of being unsuccessful and having no recourse for that expense is the result of last options. especially when these people come from corrupt nations founded on the monarchies of foreign colonizers who have devolved into cardboard 'democracies' where corrupt leaders feel empowered by the fair skin they've inherited from their European lineage and continue to feel a God-given right to lord over the disenfranchised natives and mixed races of former slaves, peasant europeans, etc. that make up their countries.

They spend what little money a country has to emulate the luxurious life of the once aristocratic (now corporate) counterparts to the north and else where.

Corrupt people don't need to come to the US to be corrupt... but good people that want a better future for the children do.

It doesn't make it legal, no, but some people really have no choice if they want a dignified life and a chance at opportunity for their children.

let them go! what's another 16 in LA where they already have millions and millions of illegal aliens? their grandparents were probably here first and shame on you crackers for taking away their land and building on it. california belongs to mexico and they have a right to turn it into a third world country if they want to. wait isn't LA already like a third world country? i was down there and nobody speaks english! everything is written in spanish and everyone speaks spanlish. it was so cute! they will also crank out some anchor babies and viola! we have to give them food stamps and welfare and benefits and all kinds of handouts because we are so generous and dumb until they're 18 and then pay for their college,too! don't blame the illegal aliens for wanting to come here for freebies. blame the stupid gringos for welcoming them with open arms! come! illegal aliens come to the land of opportunities where money grows on trees and people are stupid and democratic and liberal and everything must be pc!

Amen Keekoh!!!!!

Glad someone with some sense spoke out. Thank you from all the people who have had to struggle and are still struggling to give their family a better life.

Just because Mexicans have the luxury of being close to the US border does not grant them more leeway to actually get in here to pursue a "better life". Sorry Charlie. You know, across the oceans, there are multitudes of countries who are way below the US standard who's people would love to come here, but because of the ocean borders, they are not able to.

You get what you get. You are born in a country- that's where you belong. If you have a good enough case to get to the US legally, you'll be granted that. Just because you're close to the border on the same continent does not mean you can storm the gates and flood our systems with your need to pursue a "better life".

What about all the Africans, Asians and Europeans who need to pursue a "better life"? Is it just Latin America that matters? It's ILLEGAL. STAY OUT OF THE US. FIGURE IT OUT. MAKE IT WORK IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY.

Keekoh thank you so much for your well reasoned comment!!! Too many people on their posts makeup legal facts. I am glad you were able to set the record straight.

Keekoh, the fact that the way to get into the US legally isn't easy doesn't mean "there is no such thing." Plenty of people do it every year. Please explain to them why, after they went to the trouble of doing things properly, someone else should be fogiven for jumping the line. Yes, things are rough in other countries, but the US is not a charity obligated to provide a piece of the pie to everyone who wants it, we're a nation like any other.

Like other nations, we have immigration laws, and those laws are to preserve the way of life for which people come here in the first place. You say no one corrupt needs to come here to be corrupt, maybe you're unaware of the problems we're having with Mexican gangs. Apparently they DO feel the need to bring their filth and violence here, and foul up our cities with it. Immigration laws are in place to prevent this, and maybe that's unfortunate and even unfair to the good people, but you know what? Life's not fair, sorry to say, and we have a country to maintain.

I have no sympathy for these illegal immigrants who are bold enough to cross illegally, even if they have no choice for a better life where they're from. For those of you who are sympathetic, allow all of them to move into YOUR neighborhood first and then let all of us know how that goes. As for me, I can't even send my kids to the school in my own neighborhood b/c it's so overcrowed (I send them to private schools and pay tuition on top of the taxes I pay for our local schools--I bet the kids of illegals are enjoying that!!!). The hospital near us is terrible b/c they're overwhelmed. I can't even enjoy taking my kids to the local mall or the park b/c it's so rundown....and I pay more taxes than anyone else. It's ridiculous and many of my neighbors go through the same. Until you've experienced this first hand, over and over for many years, don't try to pursuade others how we should all sympathize with illegal immigrants who only come here b/c they have no choice!!!!


"entering the US legally if you're latino means waiting 10-15 years perhaps."

Why do you think that is? Do you think it might have something to do with the fact the latinos, Mexicans in large part, have abused the border so long and with such impunity, coming here illegally by the tens of millions and becoming a burden on every community, in every state where they settle? It's these 'latinos' who have ruined it for other latinos. They cut in front of the line in such huge numbers that the gates are closing on the rest of their 'compadres'. Diversity is being replaced by Biversity: self-obsessed latinos and everyone else. Finally, whoever you think stole what land from whomever a gazillion years ago is irrelevant-- I am eternally grateful that the seat of my government isn't in Mexico City and that San Diego doesn't look and feel like Tijuana. As someone said, if we gave the Southwest back to Mexico, illegal immigrants would have to travel an extra 800 miles to enter the U.S. !

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