EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Thanks to a collaboration between multiple law enforcement agencies, twenty-three undocumented immigrants who were held against their will and threatened in a residential area in Northeast El Paso, were rescued.

Since February of this year, the FBI, the US Border Patrol (USBP), and task force partners have rescued eighty-eight victims from kidnapping for ransom incidents and continue to see an increase in extortion crimes directly affecting undocumented immigrants who have paid human smugglers to bring them across the United States-Mexico border.

Kidnapping extortion crimes exploit victims through threat and/or actual harm (physical or emotional), arrest, legal action, or other demands to force the victim into handing over money. These threats are aimed at the victim’s person or property or to their family and friends. Kidnapping for ransom is some of the most common extortion crimes investigated by FBI El Paso.

“Our primary concern is the safety and well-being of these victims, not their immigration status,” said Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey R. Downey. “These victims endure so many frightening situations along their journey moving up towards the United States, only to find themselves being threatened with violence or become victims of violent acts. I would like to thank USBP, EPPD, and the Tigua Tribal Police for their assistance in this ongoing investigation.”

Many undocumented immigrants are kept in stash houses located across El Paso. A stash house can be a house, shed, or any type of structure used to hide illegal activity from law enforcement. Stash houses are meant to blend in, so they can be found even in the middle of a city or gated community. Many of the non-residential structures used pose direct threat to person’s life in extreme heat and cold as they are not adequately ventilated, cooled, or heated.

If you have any question about whether the call is a virtual kidnapping or a legitimate kidnapping, contact FBI El Paso at 915-832-5000 or call 911 immediately.

FBI El Paso is committed to working with state, local, and federal law enforcement partners to increase public awareness regarding the threat posed by kidnappings and will continue to investigate and refer these types of cases for prosecution. Tips can also be submitted online at https://tips.fbi.gov. All tipsters may remain anonymous.

A federal complaint is only an allegation. A defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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