Couple accused of smuggling undocumented immigrants into Louisiana

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A Denham Springs couple was arrested in Calcasieu Parish after officers caught the pair smuggling 25 undocumented immigrants as part of a forced debt bondage operation, according to a Louisiana State Police news release.

32 year old Stephanie T. Harris, 32, and 38 year old Nicholas L. Harris were booked in Calcasieu Correctional Center Thursday on improper lane use, human trafficking and human trafficking of a juvenile, according to the news release.

They are each being held on a $376,000 bond and could face up to 35 years in prison if convicted.

Troopers separately pulled the couple over for traffic violations as they drove sport utility vehicles Thursday evening on I-10 eastbound between Sulphur and Westlake. After the stops, officers found 25 undocumented immigrants, including two unaccompanied juveniles, between the two vehicles.

“These victims were being transported through a human smuggling operation, where they would be forced into debt bondage,” according to the Louisiana State Police press release. “This type of trafficking is an example of modern day slavery, where unreasonable working conditions exist.”

The U.S. Border Patrol took custody of the immigrants and put the juveniles in protective custody, police said.

Authorities continue to investigate.

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