Manuela Magdalena Jimon Castro, 30, of Friona, was charged in Amarillo Federal Court with “alien harboring,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.
Castro, along with a family member, allegedly partnered with an illegal immigrant smuggling operation to hold “undocumented individuals hostage at their home,” according to the Attorney’s Office.
The Attorney’s Office also said while Castro and the family member held the hostages, 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 after California law enforcement received a tip from a woman who alleged that her sister was “being held for ransom in Texas.” Other law enforcement officials then spoke with another person who claimed they were previously detained in the home, according to the Attorney’s Office.
In a search of Castro’s house, officials said they discovered 17 undocumented immigrants, including two minors.
According to the Attorney’s Office, the individuals allegedly admitted that they had entered the county “illegally with smugglers” and said they believed they had to stay at the home in Friona until they paid their “entrance fees.”
The release said that if Castro is convicted, she faces up to five years in federal prison.