By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - A 13-year-old Honduran boy held hostage by two human smugglers in an alleged attempt to extort more money from his family has been rescued from a Phoenix apartment, federal authorities said on Wednesday.
Authorities were alerted to the boy's plight on Friday by his mother, who said her son had recently been smuggled across the U.S. border into Arizona and that the smugglers were now trying to extort her, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.
The mother, who lives in Florida, told authorities there that her son was being held captive at an undisclosed spot in Phoenix and that she feared for his safety. She complained the smugglers were demanding more money to take the boy to the family.
Agents in Phoenix were able to locate the apartment on Friday night, and authorities arrested the pair without incident, ICE said.
The boy, who was unharmed, was turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for unaccompanied immigrant children in the United States. It was not immediately clear how long he had been held or how much money the smugglers were seeking, nor was there any word on when the boy would be reunited with his mother.
"This case illustrates yet again the inhumanity of the human smuggling trade," Matt Allen, a Homeland Security Investigations special agent in charge in Arizona, said in a statement. "The sad but simple fact is, to the smuggling organization, this child is nothing more than a business commodity."
Frances Salas, 27, and Jesus Millan-Rodriguez, 31, were booked into jail on Friday on suspicion of kidnapping and marijuana possession for sale stemming from the incident, ICE said. Agents also found a pound of marijuana in a plastic bag in the apartment.
Salas, a Phoenix resident, and Millan-Rodriguez, a Mexican national, remained in custody on Wednesday, sheriff's officials said.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Sandra Maler)