HOUSTON — The man accused of running an alleged human smuggling operation in southwest Houston has been charged.
Mauro Dominguez-Maldonado, a 36-year-old Honduran national who officials say is here illegally, has been charged with harboring 29 people in a stash house.
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Dominguez-Maldonado was arrested Thursday after one of the victims managed to escape the home in the 4800 block of Raven Ridge Drive. Someone called 911 when they heard a man calling for help, and when police arrived, he led them back to the house.
Police found 28 men and one female who appeared to be a minor. Officials said the victims are from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Cuba.
The criminal complaint alleges Dominguez-Maldonado was in charge of watching over the individuals and performing multiple tasks in the alleged human smuggling operation. The complaint also alleges the home had boarded-up windows and deadbolt locks on the inside doors.
Mary Lewis lives directly behind the home.
“When he ran up to me he looked like he was all cut up,” Lewis said. “He had like cuts in his face. But he was in his red shorts, drawers. And he was barefoot."
Lewis believes the man jump her gate to get away from the house. She said she was in her front yard when the man ran up to her.
“Then I was backing up. I said, ‘What’s wrong, man? I can’t understand you. What are you talking about?’ And then he would look back that way," Lewis said.
She said the man then ran to another home for help.
Andrea Baquedano rushed to the scene on Thursday night.
“I don’t know. I just had a feeling he was in that group,” Baquedano said.
She said her cousin was among them.
“He gave us a call and he said he was in there in the house and that the police got them,” she said.
Her cousin was trying to get to the U.S. from Honduras but she hadn’t heard from him in two months.
“I was worried, because one of the men that they used to call us, he said, ‘You know what? Your cousin is missing. He probably might be dead,'" Baquedano said.
She knew her cousin was in trouble.
“Every time they call us, they say, ‘OK, you want to know about him? Give us $3,000,’” she said.
She is relieved all the victims are safe.
Dominguez-Maldonado faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 if convicted. He is expected to make his first court appearance Monday.