They crossed into the United States illegally six weeks ago to get one step closer to family members in Canada and Indiana. However, Brownsville Police said a Mexican man, woman and her 2-year-old son found themselves held hostage in the closet of a Brownsville hotel room, Rose Garden Inn, after their smuggler abandoned them.
"(A) female approached her and asked her if she needed a place to stay, at which point she went with them, Brownsville Police Department Spokesperson Billy Killebrew said. She was able to call her family members in Indiana and was still going to try to make it up there, but these suspects then decided to hold her for ransom."
Without the $5,000 that suspects Luciano Romero, Patricia Garcia Ramon and San Juana Garcia demanded, the victims were told they'd have to work for their safe release. Killebrew said the victims could not run because the alleged kidnappers claimed to be part of a drug cartel.
"(The told her) if she tried to escape, they would harm her and her daughter, Killebrew said. It's a tactic that they use on people. People are going to be scared - you mention the cartel to them, of course they're from Mexico so they're afraid their family is going to get hurt."
It's unclear how, but police said at some point the woman managed to contact her family members again to inform them that they were being held hostage.
She was able to provide a hotel name and room number.
Police found them early Saturday and rescued them unharmed.
"They're lucky, Killebrew said. It could've been worse. They could've been held captive for a very long time, they could've been put to work and no one would've ever found out."
Each suspect now faces 10 counts, including human smuggling, aggravated kidnapping, unlawful restraint and trafficking of a child with intent of forced labor.
Bond is set at $520,000.
U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement is also investigating the case.