Home News Local News 7 Guatemalans found in Chaves ‘stash house’

7 Guatemalans found in Chaves ‘stash house’

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A “stash house” — holding seven Guatemalan males who were in the country illegally — was discovered in Chaves County Friday.

The males — including two who were 16 and 17 years old — were found at a Concord Road location by Chaves County deputies, according to Mike Herrington, Chaves County sheriff, in his Facebook post early Saturday morning.

Herrington added he and deputies went to the location after receiving information about the existence of a stash house used for human trafficking.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were then contacted and subsequently took possession of the seven males. Herrington said ICE is now in charge of the case. An email to ICE and calls to Herrington for more information were not returned before press time Saturday.

Last February, a similar shelter was discovered during an operation conducted by officers with Enforcement Removal Operations (ERO) — a division of ICE — and a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), at 7384 Southeast Main Street in Dexter.

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In all, 67 malnourished people from Guatemala and Ecuador, including six unaccompanied teenagers, were found stuffed into a 20 by 20 foot shed on wheels at that location, with minimal food, water and no operational toilet. One HSI agent in March described the conditions as “deplorable.”

Tomas Miguel Mateo, 38, of Guatemala, was arrested at the scene and charged with “harboring aliens” and “unlawful re-entry by a removed alien.” Mateo at the time told agents that he was forced by members of a smuggling group to house and feed the people in the trailer, but did not reveal any names to agents.

Since the February incident, Herrington has expressed concern about possible increased human trafficking in the county.

“We just know that Chaves County is 6,000 square miles and we know that there is just a lot of land out there where people can be kept,” Herrington said to the Roswell Daily Record in an interview in May.

He added that since U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents were moved from border checkpoints earlier this year to deal with the humanitarian needs along the border, criminal activity such as human trafficking will likely increase.

Herrington reiterated those concerns in his Facebook post early Saturday.

“Warning, with the Border Patrol checkpoints closed, there will be many more of these here in Chaves County,” Herrington stated.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.