Mother, 2 kids held captive by cartel affiliates over unpaid smuggling debt, fed says

2 people found in home after officers fire tear gas into home


SAN ANTONIO – A federal complaint filed Wednesday alleges three men working for the Zetas cartel held a woman and her two children captive at a San Antonio home over an unpaid smuggling debt.

According to authorities, the San Antonio Police Department’s Special Victims Unit said the woman's family tipped off officers Tuesday after they were asked to pay $12,000 for the release of their loved ones.

Family members told authorities that the woman was recently deported when individuals purporting to be with the Zetas cartel approached her saying they would smuggle her back into the U.S. if she paid $12,000.

After the $12,000 fee was paid, the woman and her children were then taken to a home in the 700 block of Martin Luther King Drive near New Braunfels Avenue where agents of the cartel contacted the woman's family, demanding an additional $12,000.

The federal complaint states the woman's family tried to raise the money, but was unsuccessful. That's when they contacted police and gave authorities what information they had on the individuals holding the woman and her two children captive, the complaint states. 

Police enlisted the help of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations and the Department of Homeland Security, who tracked the group to the East Side home.

While undercover investigators were watching the home, they saw the woman and her two boys, ages 8 and 11, get into a car with two of the men, identified as Jose Luciano Rocha Ortiz and Juventino Hernandez Cruz.

Officers intervened and arrested the two men and safely placed the mother and children in police custody.

Officers closed down a nearby intersection for several hours as they worked to determine if the house was clear of any more victims.

Around 7 p.m., officials began firing several rounds of tear gas at the home.

When SWAT teams entered, one man, identified as Fermin Cordero-Chavez, surrendered to authorities. A second man was found hiding in the attic. However, that man is only referred to as an acronym in the complaint, and it appears he will not be facing charges in connection with the ransom plot.

Cruz and Ortiz told authorities that they were instructed by a man with the Zetas cartel named "Eddie" to hold the woman and her children captive until smuggling fees were paid in full by the woman's family.

All three men said the home was used as a stash house for individuals smuggled into the U.S. 

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