CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Authorities in Chattanooga have taken into custody 13 illegal immigrants police believe to be part of a multistate smuggling operation.
Chattanooga police discovered a 30-page list of others believed to have paid the smugglers for transportation from Arizona to at least five different states when the illegal immigrants were taken into custody on Thursday.
Police say they will continue to search on Friday for another suspect in the case who had been tracked first to Memphis and then to Mississippi.
"This is just a small part of the big picture," said Lt. Tim Carroll, head of the Chattanooga Police Department's major crimes division.
None of the suspects cooperated with police and could not be positively identified, according to Officer Harold Diaz, who said he knew only that they appeared to be natives of Latin America.
A total of 11 men and two women were arrested and placed on hold for federal immigration officials.
The case was initiated by Illinois authorities, who notified Chattanooga police on Thursday they had traced a possible immigrant smuggler to Marion County, Tenn., and then to Chattanooga via wireless phone.
Chattanooga found the illegal immigrants while searching for the man, who was wanted on possible kidnapping and extortion charges after authorities say he allegedly charged $2,500 to bring someone to Illinois but fled after an unsuccessful attempt to extort more money in the deal, Carroll said.
Chattanooga police were searching around 19th and South Beech streets when they noticed a man emerge from one of the houses. When they asked to enter the house, a man later identified as a suspected smuggler ran out of the back of the house and into a wooded area a few blocks away, Carroll said.
Officers caught the man after a brief foot pursuit and then discovered a dozen other people at the house.