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Illegal immigrant held in Baldwin Park house tells agents his captors demanded money [Updated]

August 20, 2010 | 11:27 am

An Ecuadoran man told investigators he was held in an 800-square-foot Baldwin Park house while his captors demanded $2,500 above the $10,500 he had already paid to be smuggled into the United States.

Another man came from New York to pay $12,000 for the release of his 12-year-old son sequestered in the house. Smugglers then kidnapped the man and demanded another $1,000 from his family for his release.

These were among the stories emerging Friday after 35 illegal immigrants were found in the house Thursday after one of them managed to get a cellphone and called 911.

Baldwin Park officers arrived at the house to find two men running away. Officers detained one of the two, and found a third inside the house.

The suspected smugglers from Guatemala were identified as Ismael Carrillo Castaneda, 20, and Edwin Francisco, 18.

Ten of the immigrants were from Guatemala, 16 from El Salvador, four from Honduras and five from Ecuador. Five were women. Four were boys; two aged 17, one 15 and another 12.

It was unclear Friday how long the immigrants had been kept in the house or how long it had been used as a safehouse for illegal immigrants.

Baldwin Park police said in a statement that it appeared some of the immigrants had been at the house as long as a week. The immigrants told agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement they were allowed to use the bathroom only during the day, said Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for the agency.

The doors were dead-bolted, the windows were boarded and some were barred, and the adult women were made to cook for them all, Haley said.

[Updated at 2:39 p.m.: The incident marks the first time in more than a year that an immigrant "load house" of that size has been discovered in urban Los Angeles, said Tracy Cormier, an ICE agent with extensive experience in Southern California smuggling investigations.

"Previously, they'd started a pattern of moving outside of L.A., to Palmdale and Lancaster," Cormier said.

Years ago, a deal struck by an immigrant in his home country was honored by the smuggler, Cormier said.

"The agreements made in their fore countries are no longer honored," she said. "In the last three to four years, it's gotten progressively worse."

Cormier said she has seen cases where smugglers will call the family of an illegal immigrant while they're torturing or raping the relative to try to force the family to pay.]

-- Sam Quinones