Edinburg couple previously charged with hostage taking facing new charges
An Edinburg couple who were arrested last year and accused of holding three migrants hostage and forcing them to work without pay were indicted on new charges.
A federal grand jury on Tuesday returned a seven-count superseding indictment against Eduardo Javier Gomez, 31, and Margarita Alvarez, 40, on a charge of financially benefitting from the forced labor, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Both individuals had previously been indicted for hostage taking and labor trafficking.
According to the criminal complaint originally filed against Gomez on July 2021, he and his wife were arrested after Homeland Security Investigations McAllen were informed by the New York Police Department of a family of three undocumented migrants being held against their will by an unknown smuggler within Hidalgo County.
A relative of the migrants –identified as Maria - informed authorities that smugglers initially were demanding an additional $12,000 to smuggle the trio to Houston, the complaint stated. The smugglers then transferred them to another smuggler, who was later identified as Gomez.
Maria would speak on the phone with Gomez, who told her that he would make her family members work to pay off their smuggling fees.
Maria spoke with her relatives on the phone in an indigenous dialect and learned that two of them were forced to work at a firework stand and sell drugs outside the Los Amigos Bar near the city of Edinburg. Another relative was forced to live at Gomez’s house that he shared with Alvarez and work as a housekeeper and babysitter.
The three of them were not permitted to spend time together while at Gomez’s house and one was isolated from the others, the complaint stated.
Special agents with HIS McAllen surveilled Gomez’s home and conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle that exited the residence that was driven by Alvarez with her three juvenile children and one of the migrants as the passengers.
Alvarez was taken in for questioning, where she told HSI agents that she suspected her husband was involved in human smuggling. Gomez was arrested by federal agents after refusing to answer questions, the complaint stated.
The other two migrants were found in the home of Gomez’s sister.
If convicted, Gomez and Alvarez face up to life in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
Court records show both individuals will be arraigned on July 7.
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