CHAPARRAL, New Mexico – Federal prosecutors on Monday charged three Chaparral residents with operating a human smuggling operation that allegedly held migrants hostage for ransom payments from their families.
Ricardo Arce, 40, Vicki Sowell, 35, and Jonathan Gonzalez, 34, are also accused of assaulting those they held hostage, sending videos of assaults to the victims' families and threatening to kill their loved ones unless money was paid for their release.
Prosecutors allege at least 14 individuals were held in a trailer by the trio - with a house and trailer at other locations also utilized to hold additional victims.
The FBI said it recovered two of the kidnapped migrants smuggled across the border from Juarez after they were contacted by family members; one was dumped at an El Paso area barbershop and the other at a local restaurant.
“Those who seek to exploit and prey upon the vulnerable will be held accountable for these heinous crimes,” said Jeffrey Coburn, the acting special agent in charge for the FBI's El Paso field office, in announcing the charges in this case.
The trio arrested and charged have been ordered detained by a federal judge while their criminal cases await trial.