It was hell on earth just a few feet away from well kept homes and legitimate businesses. Young women and girls locked away in rooms above cantina forced to have sex with strangers.
"They were hiding in plain sight." Says Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.
Cell phone video captured the opening phases of the raid.. The task force alleges that pimps trafficked in the women from Mexico. The girls and young women were rented out for fifteen minute intervals. They were beaten if they failed to satisfy and then after the place closed.. they were taken to other places to have sex until dawn. Three of the businesses occupied one building.. Ironically one has a sign reading "not minors" in Spanish. Another one, Las Palmas., was right down Telephone road.
It was all under the control of a the family's 66 year old matriarch named Hortencia Medeles Arguello. nicknamed Tencha. Most of the people indicted are related. The fourteen people indicted face a variety of charges, from prostitution to money laundering.. A family member who was not indicted says they are innocent.
"These are hardworking people. they are innocent. they go to church. they just have the wrong information and wrong people." Says Maine Arroyo Rodriguez.
Attorney Todd Dupont might represent some of the indicted.. he says because they are related the state could have a rough time of it.
"History tells us that it's very uncommon but it happens that family is going to want to cooperate against other family members."
Over the course of the two and a half year investigation they rescued twelve women, five of them under fifteen. The task force knows there are more victims out there and they want to hear from them.. They say the victims don't have to fear deportation.. They'd also like to hear about one of the accused pimps. .a Mexican national named Alfonso Diaz-Juarez.. He is on the run but has a reward on his head... But as sad as this story is.. it gets worse.. here's why.. Those on the front likes of the human trafficking problem think the fight is far from over.
"Unfortunately I'm not sure we made a huge dent. Like the sheriff alluded to there are other businesses out there doing this and there are other victims out there. This is one case. This is one investigation." Said Special Agent In Charge Stephen Morris with the FBI.
Thursday night's raid netted twenty-two women. The task force doesn't' know yet ifd they are part of the conspiracy, are innocent employees, or more victims.