McALLEN — Federal agents arrested two men and a woman accused of holding three men from El Salvador who had been kidnapped shortly after entering the country through the Rio Grande.
On Wednesday morning, Noe Espinoza Zuniga, 24; Abel Meza Espinoza, 22; and Marlen Covarrubias Cruz, 20, went before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby, who formally charged them with human smuggling charges and ordered they be held without bond pending a detention hearing next week.
Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputies rescued the three victims Monday afternoon in the 7400 block of Carricero Street when they responded to a 911 call by a man who claimed to have been held against his will at a house.
As deputies approached the house, they encountered Meza Espinoza, who was sitting outside the house and told them that his wife, his children and some friends were inside the house, records show. Once sheriff’s deputies determined that the house was a human stash house, they called U.S. Border Patrol agents to take over the investigation. Meza and Covarrubias were identified as the caretakers of the group who would get groceries and cook for the people inside.
Agents spoke with Eduardo Alfredo Perez Palma, a Salvadoran man who along with his brother Emanuel had paid to be smuggled into the country — $6,000 for the former, $8,000 for the latter. Eduardo Perez spoke to agents about crossing into the U.S. and being kept at a stash house when Espinoza and two other gunmen stormed into the house, ordering everyone into a car outside that was used to drive them to the Carricero Street house, Border Patrol agents said in their criminal complaint. Once at the second stash house, Espinoza had the three Salvadoran men call their families at gunpoint so they could send them more money or they would be hurt.