BEAUMONT, TX (KBMT/CNN) - While investigating human trafficking, federal agents raided about a dozen locations in Port Arthur on Thursday morning.
Authorities are now charging 32 people with immigration and organized crime charges.
"These are far-ranging investigations into alien smuggling and racketeering here in southeast Texas, all over the state of Texas, and really ranging out into a great swath of the United States," U.S. Attorney Malcolm Bales said.
Officials say workers were underpaid; forced to work 12-hour days, six days a week; and subjected to overcrowded living arrangements, where they had to sleep on air mattresses or on floors.
"Both enterprises operated with impunity for years in Houston's Chinatown neighborhood," Bales said. "The case targets these organizations which euphemistically call themselves employment agencies, and they are known as the Tai Shan and Hong Li enterprises. In instance, the agents discovered in their investigation that the defendants treated the aliens as so much chattel, obviously preying on the aliens, (their) desire to work here as well as their collective helplessness and fear to do anything but go along with the program."
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