A man was arrested after two people who paid to be smuggled into the United States were held against their will and beaten in an effort to extort family members, according to law enforcement authorities.
A criminal complaint filed against Lindemberg Lopez-Velazquez stated that Homeland Security Investigations agents were called to assist law enforcement on New Year’s Day after the two individuals reported that a third person was being held captive.
Agents said they learned during an interview that one of the two subjects was beaten on video. That video was sent to family members in an effort to collect money in exchange for the person’s release, authorities said.
The two individuals told investigators that they were moved to a hotel in a Jeep Cherokee after the incident occurred, according to the affidavit.
They informed agents that a third person was left at a Brownsville stash house and was also being beaten to extort money from his family, according to testimony from the subjects cited in the document.
On Thursday, agents stated that they conducted surveillance at an address on Cedar Street in Brownsville. They spotted the Cherokee and stopped the vehicle on Paredes Line Road.
Three occupants fled on foot. Two were apprehended, one of which was Lopez, according to the criminal complaint.
The responding agents wrote that Lopez admitted to harboring two undocumented persons at his apartment for payment of $150.
Lopez was also seen in the video of the male subject being punched in the face by an unknown person, according to the affidavit, which also stated that Lopez told investigators the man being beaten was one of the people he was harboring.
According to the document, Lopez also told agents that he did not participate in the beatings.
Lopez and two material witnesses made initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ignacio Torteya III on Friday morning. All three were held without bond and were appointed counsel.