Map: Suspected drop house
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Authorities discovered a drop house in Avondale and arrested four human-smuggling suspects Wednesday night.
A Department of Public Safety task force served a search warrant on a home near 107th Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road and rescued 17 men and two women.
Officers also seized 15.5 pounds of marijuana and $1,000.
Four suspected smugglers were captured. Two of them were transported to an area hospital for lacerations from crashing through a back window.
A man who has agreed to testify against the smugglers in court told 3TV he spent five days crossing the desert with the smugglers before they brought him to the rented home.
The home was boarded up and the victims' belongings were taken from them. They said they were given little food and water, and forced to use buckets as toilets since the home had no running water.
Each of the illegal immigrants paid about $2,400 to be brought into the United States, but once here the smugglers demanded thousands more.
According to DPS, the suspects beat several of the victims with a curtain rod, wooden sticks and pistols as punishment for not paying the extortion fee. Three victims were taken to a hospital with broken ribs, cuts and bruises.
The man who will testify against the smugglers has a clean record, but DPS officials said several of the others had been arrested in the past for such crimes as drug possession, weapons misconduct, child abuse, crimes against children and even murder.
All the victims and suspects are Mexican nationals.
The victims are in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The suspects were booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail on charges of human smuggling, aggravated assault, armed robbery and kidnapping.