ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Homeland security rescued more than 50 illegal immigrants from a stash house in Albuquerque, including small children that were being held for ransom. Investigators say they were crammed into this tiny apartment on Palomas Drive SE near Trumbull and Zuni.

They say they were tipped off by Phoenix police, who got a call from a local woman saying her sister and two nieces, ages nine and five, were being held hostage. She says she paid $30,000 to smuggle them across the border but the smugglers were demanding $6,000 more.

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HSI investigators set up a sting where they arranged a meeting to pay the ransom. After they recovered the victims, they arrested the kidnappers.

They were identified as Marcelo Alons-Almarez and his wife, Eloisa Almaraz-Vasquez – both illegal immigrants themselves. Investigators also recovered a pistol from the van, the victims say the gun was used to threaten them if they didn’t comply.

When investigators went back to the apartment, they found about 50 more illegal immigrants, including an infant. The couple is now facing federal charges for human smuggling and hostage-taking.