Human Smuggler Arrested for Kidnapping

Updated: Wednesday, 07 Oct 2009, 9:20 PM CDT
Published : Wednesday, 07 Oct 2009, 3:55 PM CDT

Austin,TX ( - An immigrant family is brave enough to call police, after a smuggling attempt goes wrong.

For $1500, a family-- part from New Orleans, part from Houston-- arranged to have a Honduran cousin smuggled to the U.S. The Target parking lot off I-35 in Austin was meant to be the meeting spot. The family travelled to meet the smuggling organization there Saturday, but fell short on cash. They only had $600.

"They saw the family member was in the backseat of the suspect's vehicle. They attempted to
negotiate the release with only the 600 dollars, the coyotes turned them down," APD Detective Matthew Sanders said.

The family says the coyotes demanded full price, or they'd beat up their cousin.

"At which time the suspect vehicle sped off," said Detective Sanders.

Family members then turned to Austin Police with a vehicle description and the phone numbers they used to communicate with the smugglers. That information led detectives to Hardin Court in North Austin. That's where they met Juan Velez.

Cell phone records show he was the man the family dealt with all along, and he owned the suspect vehicle. Now Velez is behind bars on felony kidnapping charges.

"We'd like anyone that recognizes the suspect, if they had past dealings to call the unit and let us know and assist us in following up in finding the other suspects that we have," said Detective Sanders.

The smuggled juvenile was not at the Hardin Court apartments where Velez was arrested. He's now safe with his family. He told police he made his escape from an unknown location, when his captors slept. He was not harmed.