A San Diego woman has been charged with harboring and hiding 44 undocumented immigrants in her home, some of whom were locked in a small shed, the U.S. Attorney's office announced.
Authorities first discovered the stash house, located on the 4900 block of University Avenue in San Diego's City Heights neighborhood, when San Diego Police (SDPD) got multiple calls from neighbors, according to a complaint filed in Federal Court.
Neighbors expressed concern after they saw two cars dropping off multiple people at the home, who then nervously rushed inside the home, the complaint alleges.
City Heights resident Dania Olivero, 51, told police she invited the people to drink beer at her house, the complaint alleges.
Officers further investigated, and found the people with unopened beers in front of them in the home. Some of the people ran to the back yard when authorities arrived.
"The police officers observed the individuals seemed nervous and weren't actually drinking the beer that was in front of them," said Mark Conover, Assistant United States Attorney and Chief of Reactive Crime Section.
Border Patrol officers were called to the home when police suspected the people may be undocumented immigrants.
All but two identified themselves as Mexican nationals without legal status in the U.S. when questioned, according to the complaint. Two said they were citizens of Guatemala, but did not have legal standing to be in the U.S.
Some of those questioned reported they were locked in a small backyard shed without light, ventilation or a bathroom with dozens of others, according to the complaint.
"Many were placed in a backyard shed, a shed without lighting, ventilation. A small shed with approximately 30 other individuals," Conover said.
All 44 of the undocumented immigrants were taken into custody. Seven of them are still in custody as material witnesses, and the remainder are in the custody of immigration officials pending immigration proceedings.
Olivero is charged with harboring and concealing undocumented immigrants, which carries a maximum of ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000 if she is convicted.