updated 5/12/2008 12:53:35 AM ET 2008-05-12T04:53:35

Fifty-three illegal immigrants found Sunday had been held against their will in a fortified home by suspected smugglers demanding more money, authorities said.

The group of rescued immigrants included two 13-year-old girls, three women and a mentally disabled man. The rest were men, Department of Public Safety spokesman Harold Sanders said.

Authorities began investigating Saturday after getting a tip that immigrants were being held captive. Sanders said the smugglers wanted an average of $2,500 for each person's release.

The single-family home where they were kept had been fortified to prevent escape and weapons were seized at the location. The suspected smugglers also took away the immigrants' shoes so they couldn't run off.

Sanders said five people, all residents of Mexico, were being jailed on charges of extortion, kidnapping, aggravated assault and human smuggling.

Authorities on the scene said the immigrants had little food and water and it was unclear how long they had been held inside the house.

"Because the undocumented aliens are held in fortified rooms and do not have access to watches, clocks, telephones, televisions, etc, so when they are interviewed, many do not have a true sense of time and whether hours, days or weeks have passed." Sanders said.

The rescued immigrants were turned over to U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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