Suspected drophouse busted in Phoenix; 8 arrested

by Jordan Johnson - Sept. 28, 2009 06:12 PM
The Arizona Republic

A group of suspected human smugglers was arrested Saturday for allegedly holding illegal immigrants in a Phoenix drophouse, police said.

Investigators of the Illegal Immigration Apprehension Co-op Team and the Phoenix Police Department SWAT team were called to the scene when a man escaped the drophouse and notified Phoenix police of its location near the 9000 block of West Cambridge Avenue, according to a release issued Monday by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Eight people were arrested, and 17 illegal immigrants were rescued after being tortured and held for ransom, the release said.

According to the statement, "the victims were beaten with a mop handle" and "made to undress while the armed guards photographed them with their own cellphones threatening to send the photos to their families."

The smugglers were arrested on suspicion of felony counts that included human smuggling, armed robbery, weapons misconduct, kidnapping and aggravated assault, according to the release.

This was the second discovery of a drophouse by investigators in eight days. Another drop house was found on Sept. 18, when Glendale police arrested six human smugglers and release eight victims at the 5000 block of West Maryland Avenue, the release said.

Investigators at both scenes seized guns and cellphones from the alleged smugglers.

The team that dismantled the two drophouses included investigators from DPS, the Phoenix Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.