MESA, Ariz. -- Three Mexican men face federal charges after agents busted an alleged drop house in Mesa on Wednesday.
Jesus Castillo-Mejia, 47, and Genaro Guzman-Guzman, 29, appeared in federal court Thursday where they were charged with human smuggling. Marco Guzman-Guzman, 27, was charged with illegally re-entering the United States following a previous deportation order.
Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations responded to a home on South Hobson Street, which is between Mesa Drive and Horne, after receiving a tip that numerous suspected illegal immigrants were inside.
The agents saw several people attempting to flee from the house, according to ICE spokeswoman Amber Cargile. They pursued the individuals back inside and obtained a federal search warrant.
Cargile said the agents found the defendants and 22 other illegal immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Ecuador inside the house. The group included three women and one teenage boy. Agents also found a 9 mm pistol when they searched the house.
According to the criminal complaints, Castillo-Mejia showed the smuggled immigrants a handgun, ordered them to stay in the house and threatened to pistol whip anyone who attempted to escape. He later demanded an additional $1,000 smuggling fee from one of the women in the group.
Witnesses said that Genaro Guzman-Guzman referred to the illegal immigrants as "pollos," or chickens, and pointed a gun at a woman in the group.
"While the number of drop houses in the Phoenix area has declined over the past few years, this case illustrates that human smuggling remains a cold, ruthless business," said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of HSI Arizona. "To the smugglers, these people are simply a commodity, not human beings. HSI is committed to finding these criminals, arresting them, and working with our partners at the U.S. Attorney's Office to bring them to justice."
The investigation is ongoing.
HSI has encountered 18 drop houses containing more than 200 illegal immigrants in the Phoenix area since January.