SAN DIEGO – A City Heights resident was arrested and charged with harboring and hiding 44 undocumented immigrants, some of whom reported that they were locked in a small backyard shed with dozens of others, without light, ventilation or a bathroom, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Monday.
According to a complaint filed in federal court, the San Diego Police Department received calls from neighbors who were concerned about two vehicles dropping off multiple individuals who then nervously and hurriedly entered a home in the 4900 block of University Avenue.
When police arrived to investigate, defendant Dania Olivero, 51, told officers she had invited the people over to drink beer.
Officers found people who appeared to be nervous, not drinking unopened beer in front of them. Some of the people ran to the backyard when they saw the officers.
Police suspected the people were undocumented immigrants and asked the U.S. Border Patrol for assistance. When Border Patrol officers questioned the people in the house, all but two identified themselves as Mexican nationals without legal status in the United States; the other two said they were citizens of Guatemala without legal status in the United States. All were taken into custody.
“I see this huge tent and I’ve seen so many people walking in and out, I never thought they were undocumented,” said a neighbor who did not want to be identified.
Prosecutors said seven people arrested remained in custody as material witnesses. The rest are in the custody of immigration authorities pending immigration proceedings.