SULPHUR, LA (KPLC) - Authorities arrested a Denham Springs couple in Calcasieu Parish for alleged human trafficking on June 14.
Louisiana State Police say Stephanie T. Harris, 32, and Nicholas L. Harris, 38, were driving separate cars when they were both pulled over on Interstate 10 between Westlake and Sulphur for traffic violations.
It was during these traffic stops when police reportedly discovered 25 undocumented people in the cars, including two unaccompanied minors, that were allegedly being transported through a human smuggling operation.
It is believed these victims were going to be forced into debt bondage, what Louisiana State Police call a type of modern day slavery where unreasonable working conditions exist.
"Debt bondage is when someone takes out a loan or a trafficker uses a loan, uses money, against someone who needs it and uses that loan to trap a person. Their intentions are to never let that person repay that loan and trap them forever." says Rusty Havens, the founder of SWLA Abolitionists.
SWLA Abolitionists was created to help fight human trafficking. They help train people what to look for, since Haven says Louisiana is a hot spot for human smuggling.
"It is very common. There have already been hundreds of cases in Louisiana just this year." says Haven.
Interstate 10, connecting California to Florida, has been referred to as the "super highway for human trafficking."
The undocumented immigrants discovered Thursday are now in the custody of Border Patrol and the two juveniles are in protective custody.
According to Louisiana State Police, the Harris' each have been charged with improper lane use, human trafficking, and human trafficking of a juvenile. Both have been booked in the Calcasieu Correctional Center. Bonds have been set at $376,000 each. If convicted, each faces up to 35 years in prison.
Homeland Security Investigations and the Louisiana State Police Special Investigations Unit assisted. The investigation is ongoing.
Anyone with information on sex or labor trafficking should call the Louisiana State Police Fusion Center hotline at 1-800-434-8007.
To learn more about SWLA Abolitionists, click here.