EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Two men were recently arrested and charged after a suspected stash house was discovered in West El Paso, and a 13-year-old girl locked in one of the bedrooms, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
Earlier in August, DPS Criminal Investigations Division (CID) Special Agents along with Texas Highway Patrol Troopers and the El Paso and New Mexico United States Border Patrol Anti-Smuggling Units discovered a suspected stash house in which agents observed a make-shift door with a lock in the main hallway and found each room door also had coded locks.
Further investigation revealed the house was being utilized for sex trafficking and the trafficking of drugs, including fentanyl and methamphetamine.
According to an affidavit obtained by KTSM, the U.S. Border Patrol received an anonymous tip that the house in West El Paso was used for stashing undocumented non-citizens.
In the document, it explained that law enforcement officers arrived at the home and asked Francisco Luevano, the homeowner if they could enter and take a look around.
When law enforcement arrived, they observed a group on individuals sitting at a kitchen table drinking alcohol.
They also observed a box of Narcan, and baggies used for cocaine and other drug paraphernalia on the kitchen table.
The document read that Jose Sierra Jr. was the voluntary caregiver of the 13-year-old girl.
Through the investigation, evidence was found from text messages between Sierra and the girl where Sierra told her to stop bringing adult men into her bedroom because it could get them in trouble with law enforcement as it could be perceived as aggravated human trafficking.
Messages also showed the girl’s drug usage.
DPS says the Texas Department of Family Protective Services (TDFPS) and DPS Victim Services Counselor (VESS) assisted the child, and she was eventually turned over to officials.
The girl was transported to the Juvenile Detention Center and according to the document, the girl felt sick en route telling the trooper she was having withdrawals from marijuana usage.
The trooper told the girl the withdrawals usually happen from heavy drug usage such as methamphetamines or fentanyl.
In the document, the girl stated that she only smoked marijuana but is around people who do methamphetamines and fentanyl.
The investigation is still active and ongoing. At this time, the following individuals have been arrested and/or charged:
Jose Sierra Jr., 43, of El Paso, was charged with child endangerment – imminent danger bodily injury and possession of marijuana.
Francisco Luevano, 47, of El Paso, was charged with child endangerment – imminent danger bodily injury and possession of cocaine.
So far this year, 250 stash houses have been located in the El Paso Sector, according to DPS.
DPS encourages the public to report any suspicious activity to the police immediately. To make a report call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-252-TIPS (8477) or submit a tip online at https://www.p3tips.com/650. Rewards of up to $5,000 are available.
These types of investigations highlight the partnership between local, state and federal law enforcement partners working together to combat human trafficking, according to DPS.
If you are a victim of human trafficking or have information about this type of criminal activity contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.
Citizens can also report suspicious activity to the U.S. Border Patrol while remaining anonymous by calling 1-800-635-2509.