Mexican federal and state police officers rescued 458 children from a squalid group home in the western state of Michoacan on Tuesday. The children were held at the home against their will and were forced to beg for money and suffered sexual abuse while there, said Mexico Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam.
Mexican authorities reported the Great Family group home, in the city of Zamora, was home to to 278 boys, 174 girls and six infants under the age of three. Murillo Karam said police also rescued 138 adults up to age 40.
According to the official, residents were forced to live in filthy conditions, fed rotten food and slept on the floor with rats, ticks and fleas.
The home’s owner, Rosa del Carmen Verduzco, and eight employees have been detained for questioning.
The investigation began after five parents filed complaints with authorities because they weren’t allowed to see their children at the home. One mother of a teenage boy held at the home said she was only allowed to see her son three times a year and that the owner demanded $2,800 when she attempted to remove him from the home.
Michoacan governor Salvador Jara said the complaint was filed more than a year ago, but did not say why authorities delayed taking action for so long.
Local media had reported on allegations made against the home as far back as 2010.
Additional reporting by Associated Press