Who is Manuela Magdalena Jimon Castro? Woman Held Immigrants Hostage, Demanded Thousands for Release

Upon holding 17 undocumented immigrants prisoner in her home and allegedly demanding that they pay between $11,000 and $12,000 in order to be released, a woman in Texas has been accused.

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In a statement released on Thursday, the Northern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office stated that Manuela Magdalena Jimon Castro, 30, had been charged with “alien harboring.” If found guilty, she may spend up to five years in federal prison.

According to the lawyer’s office, “Ms. Castro and a family member collaborated with an illegal immigrant smuggling operation to hold undocumented people hostage at their home, threatening to rob them of food and water and refusing to let them leave until they paid $11,000 to $12,000 or “worked off” the debt.”

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Newsweek was informed on Friday by a representative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas that “a number of nonprofits/churches stepped forward to aid with food, shelter, and other services.”

The spokeswoman declined to discuss the immigrants’ health conditions, citing an ongoing inquiry.

After a woman in California alerted authorities that her sister was being held for ransom in Texas, the case was put under investigation. The woman’s sister was planning to go from Guatemala to Mexico and apply for asylum in the United States. While she was crossing the border, a Mexican cartel imprisoned her.

“She was pushed into a car at gunpoint by people she thought were smuggling cartel members. They escorted her from house to house in Texas and New Mexico for several months before walking her across the southern border.

Until she paid off her debt, they would not let her leave. She eventually arrived to the Castro home, where she was informed that she would be held until she paid $12,000, “The statement was made by the lawyer’s office. The hostage’s sister received a pin that she had mailed to a site in Friona, Texas, before she managed to escape.

After interviewing with the woman who ran away and another person who was being held at the property, authorities searched Castro’s home. Officers discovered the 17 immigrants at that time, two of whom were young children. The majority of those discovered were trying to conceal themselves in closets, totes covered in blankets, or the attic.

The statement from the attorney’s office stated that “agents noted that the home included virtually little furniture, save beds and blankets for a significant number of individuals scattered across the floor.”

The immigrants told law enforcement that they had been trafficked into the country by people smugglers who had taken their cell phones and limited their ability to communicate with anyone but family members in order to collect money for their “entrance fees.” Some of them claimed that they thought they had to remain in Castro’s home until the debt was fully paid.