A woman has been arrested in connection with a human smuggling operation based out of an El Mirage home in which undocumented immigrants were charged up to $15,000 in fees, police said.
El Mirage police said they received a report at about 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, of people being held for ransom at a home near the 12000 block of West Dahlia Drive. The woman who made the complaint told authorities that there were several people, including her husband, being held in the home.
El Mirage officers stopped a vehicle after it left the home and arrested Tania Estudillo Hernandez, 24, who police said was transporting a Guatemalan national.
El Mirage police learned while conducting the traffic stop, “two smugglers departed the home with 10 undocumented immigrants,” according to a department release.
Detectives and officers went to the home, and the Glendale Police Department’s SWAT team assisted, police said.
A search warrant was served and a semi-automatic rifle, two handguns (one of which was reported stolen in Phoenix), ammunition, ledgers documenting human smuggling and other evidence of human smuggling was seized, police said.
Through its investigation, El Mirage police said they learned that 80-100 undocumented immigrants were held and or processed in the home monthly for at least six months and charged as much as $15,000 in smuggling fees.
Estudillo Hernandez was booked into Maricopa County Jail on violations of kidnapping, money laundering, illegally conducting or participation in an illegal enterprise and conspiracy.
The El Mirage Police Department is working with the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the investigation.