PHOENIX – Authorities found at least 80 suspected illegal immigrants in a drop house west of Phoenix and arrested two suspected smugglers on Friday night.
Peoria police spokesman Mike Tellef said one suspected smuggler came out the front door of the house after authorities shot gas inside. It took several hours before a second smuggler surrendered after police deployed a diversionary device.
Police earlier thought the second smuggler may have had an assault rifle, but he was not armed when they found him in the attic. Both men were in custody.
Some of the suspected illegal immigrants who got out of the house said the smugglers ran upstairs as soon as authorities arrived to serve a search warrant.
Additionally, three women who may have been too scared to come out were found in the basement of the home. They were unharmed, Tellef said.
Tellef said authorities became aware of the drop house after a Michigan resident called U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying one of their relatives had called because the smugglers were demanding more money.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice did not confirm how the agency became aware of the drop house and declined to release further information.
"We're sorting this all out," Kice said. "Our first priority right now is the safety of the people in that house, the integrity of any federal prosecution we're going to be able to take, and of course, there's always the potential — because of the network nature of these smuggling organizations — that if we give out too much information up front, we could jeopardize efforts to locate other people who may be involved."
Tellef said none of the immigrants had requested medical treatment, although some had said they hadn't eaten for at least a day.
"We're very fortunate that nobody got hurt," he said. "We're lucky that we're not running into 100-degree temperatures yet."
He described the Peoria home as a one-story around 1,200 square feet. He said it is located in a middle-class neighborhood.
The immigrants were in the custody of ICE.
Tellef said the drop house is the second the department has found this week. On Monday, he said 30 suspected illegal immigrants and four smugglers were found in a Peoria home.
On Thursday in Phoenix, police found 60 suspected illegal immigrants packed in a home after responding to a call about shots being fired. No one was hurt, and the immigrants were turned over to ICE.