AUSTIN (KXAN) — According to indictment records, a human smuggling organization used drivers to pick up migrants near the U.S.-Mexico border and often harbored them at “stash houses” in Austin and another Texas city.

“The human smuggling organization allegedly used methods to transport migrants that placed their lives in danger as they were frequently held in contained spaces with little ventilation, no temperature control and in conditions that placed them at great risk,” a statement from the DOJ said.

  • Image of 81 migrants in the back of a tractor trailer (U.S. Department of Justice photo)
  • Image of migrants inside a wooden crate (U.S. Department of Justice photo)
  • Image of migrants trapped inside the bed cover of a pickup truck (U.S. Department of Justice photo)

According to the DOJ, drivers for the organization were paid as much as $2,500 for each migrant they unlawfully transported.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced eight people were indicted Tuesday in connection to the human smuggling operation.

The eight people indicted were Erminia Serrano Piedra, 31, who led the human smuggling operation, Kevin Daniel Nuber, 41, Laura Nuber, 40, Lloyd Bexley, 51, Jeremy Dickens, 45, Katie Ann Garcia, 39, Oliveria Piedra-Campuzana, 53, and Pedro Hairo Abrigo, 33.

“They facilitated the unlawful transportation and movement of migrants within the United States in deplorable conditions for profit,” the indictment said. “The migrants or their families allegedly paid members of the human smuggling organization to help them travel illegally to and within the United States.”

The DOJ said the indictments against the defendants were brought under the Joint Task Force Alpha. JTFA’s goal is to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling and trafficking networks, according to the DOJ.

“We are unwavering in our commitment and sending a strong message: if you manipulate and imperil and take advantage of struggling migrants, we are coming for you. This investigation is a perfect example of how we’re bringing our agencies and components together to leverage the full force of the federal government to do just that,” said Deputy Secretary John K. Tien of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Homeland Security office in Austin, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations based in Austin, the Round Rock and Austin Police Departments and Bastrop and Caldwell County Sheriff’s Offices aided in the investigation.