More than 40 illegal immigrants from Mexico were in Immigration and Naturalization Service custody Friday after being found in a Los Angeles apartment, authorities said.
Federal officials were interviewing the immigrants to determine whether they were being held against their will and whether smugglers were extorting money from their families, said Sharon Gavin, an INS spokeswoman.
The 43 immigrants were found Thursday by Los Angeles police officers investigating a report of kidnapping and extortion in the Westlake area, said Officer Guillermo Campos, an LAPD spokesman.
As police and INS agents converged on the apartment in the 900 block of South Westmoreland Avenue, officers saw an undetermined number of men who authorities believe were smugglers running out of the building. Inside the apartment, police "only found people who have been taken across the border illegally," said Campos. The alleged smugglers were not caught.
Arrangements were being made to return the immigrants to Mexico, officials said.
Residents of the apartment building said the illegal immigrants were kept apart from others in the building.
Hugo Calderon, the apartment manager for two years, said he knew nothing about the 43 people found in the apartment until police arrived.
"I rented the apartment," he said. "I don't care what they do."