Federal immigration agents raided a suspected "drop house" early today in Bell where 47 illegal immigrants were being held until their relatives could buy their freedom, authorities said.
Five smugglers were detained after the 12:30 a.m. raid on an apartment that had no furniture, no food in the refrigerator and only some beans on the stove, said Thomas Gaines of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The smugglers found in the Bell home are suspected illegal aliens from Mexico, said Gaines, the assistant district director in the INS' anti-smuggling branch.
The immigrants were Honduran and Mexican citizens, including a 17-year-old boy from Mexico and two women from Honduras, Gaines said.
When the agents arrived, the telephone was "ringing off the hook" with relatives calling to pay the smugglers to free the immigrants at prices ranging from $300 to $700, Gaines said.