AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — A Friona woman has been charged in Amarillo Federal Court, according to officials with the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, that said she held 17 undocumented immigrants hostage in her home.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, 30-year-old Manuela Magdalena Jimon Castro was charged via criminal complaint for “alien harboring.” Castro, along with a family member, reportedly partnered with an illegal immigrant smuggling operation to hold “undocumented individuals hostage at their home.”
While Castro and the family member held these individuals hostage, the news release states that they threatened to “deprive them of food and water” and refused “to allow them to leave until they paid $11,000 to $12,000 or ‘worked off’ the debt.”
Officials were tipped off of this incident after California law enforcement received a tip from a woman who said that her sister was “being held for ransom in Texas.” Other law enforcement officials then spoke with another person who said they were previously detained in the home, according to the release.
After searching Castro’s house, officials recovered 17 undocumented immigrants, including two minors. According to the release, the individuals admitted that they had entered the county “illegally with smugglers,” also saying that they believed they had to stay at the home in Friona until they paid their “entrance fees.”
The release said that if Castro was convicted, she faced up to five years in federal prison.