Federal agents discovered 60 migrants packed into a mobile home in Southeast Albuquerque, where the alleged captors are accused of holding them hostage for weeks – starving and beating them and raping at least one woman.
Rolando Joaquin-Miguel, who is 34 or 35, is charged with bringing in and harboring migrants and hostage-taking.
His attorney could not be reached Thursday.
Court records show others were involved in the alleged human trafficking operation – and were accused by migrants of rape, assault and other abuses – but it is unclear how many and if they have been detained or charged.
It is the third such human-smuggling bust in Albuquerque over the past three months, and authorities have charged at least three others and – including the most recent case – detained nearly 150 migrants.
A spokesperson for Homeland Security Investigations did not respond to questions on the matter Thursday.
The case unfolded Nov. 27 when Albuquerque police received a tip that a woman was kidnapped in Mexico and brought to the city for “forced labor and sex trafficking,” according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court. Police were told six men were holding the woman and 80 other migrants hostage somewhere in the Trumbull Village neighborhood.
The tip, which came from the Human Trafficking Hotline, included a phone number that led agents to a mobile home park in the 9000 block of Zuni SE.
Authorities said they staked out the mobile home and saw 10 people leave in an SUV and pulled the vehicle over soon after. Agents found the occupants were all undocumented.
The group told agents there were dozens of migrants being held at the mobile home under “threats of physical harm, forced labor and coercion,” according to the complaint. Joaquin-Miguel saw agents approach the mobile home through a window and wouldn’t answer the door.
Agents said they went inside and found 60 migrants with the men in a separate room from the women and teen girls. Half of the people “appeared to be ill and were coughing profusely” and multiple women said they had been held there by Joaquin-Miguel for over a month.
One woman told agents a relative paid Joaquin-Miguel $11,000 to smuggle her into the U.S. but he wouldn’t allow her or the others to leave and beat them frequently, according to the complaint. The women said Joaquin-Miguel starved them until they agreed to cook and clean for him, his drivers and accomplices.
The women told agents Joaquin-Miguel and his accomplices would slap their butts, get drunk and force the women to “dance provocatively” and sexually assault them, including the underage girls.
One woman said she was forced by Joaquin-Miguel to call her family and he told her significant other he would “murder (her) by cutting her head off if payment was not made,” according to the complaint. The same woman told agents an accomplice of Joaquin-Miguel, who went by “El Terco,” raped her.
The woman said “the conditions of the residence and treatment of the individuals was so traumatic for her that she hoped she would die.”