- Military vet among men, aged between 54 and 79, held in filthy garage
- Man in 40s arrested over claims he was cashing welfare checks
- Three victims so malnourished they were taken away on stretchers
|Suspect: A man in his 40s has been arrested after police found four men allegedly being held captive
Four men have been found living in 'deplorable' conditions in a north Houston home, where police say they were being kept captive so a suspect could claim their welfare checks.
The men, including a military vet, were so malnourished they were almost invalids, according to police who were tipped off by a neighbor.
Three of the men were found in the garage, where they allegedly were forced to sleep on the linoleum floor, and a fourth was found in a room that had locks on the door and window.
Police believe the alleged victims, who were aged 54, 65, 74 and 79, may have been homeless and that they were being kept at the house so the suspect, who has been arrested, could cash their welfare checks.
Sergeant Steve Murdock told the Houston Chronicle that residents in the house had been taking the men's social security checks.
A man in his 40s, who is not believed to live at the house, has been arrested but no charges have been made.
Houston police were tipped off about the men by a neighbor, and then called at the house at about 8.30am to do a welfare check.
Sergeant J W McCoy added: 'One of [the men] seemed to think he was just picked up off the street, kind of recruited to come and stay here.'
'In exchange for beer and cigarettes, and a place to stay, he had to turn over his social security checks,' he told ABC 13.
The room where they were found had no furniture and one of the alleged victims, who has been taken to hospital, told officers the house 'was a dungeon'.
'They were apparently given scraps to eat, very little food was provided to them. They didn't have access to a restroom,' police spokesman Jodi Silva said.
She told Fox: 'They clearly stated to us they were being kept against their will.'
'They were prisoners in that house,' Sergeant Murdock said. He added that police found evidence that other men had also been held there.
When police arrived at the house they found the door nailed shut. The converted garage that the men were in had no furniture except for one chair, a malfunctioning air conditioning unit, and was filthy, with police describing it to ABC 13 as like 'a warehouse for people'.
Three of the alleged victims were so weak they had to be taken from the house on stretchers. The fourth man, who said he did not want to leave, was due to be taken to a hospital for veterans.
Police said as well as the alleged victims, four women were found living in the main part of the house.
Three of them appeared to have mental disabilities, Ms Silva said. She added that the fourth woman appeared to be a caregiver, and said their living conditions inside the house were more normal.
Neighbors said they recognized the men who were taken from hospital but did not know about the alleged conditions inside the house.
One of the men said he had lived there for about six months and, although the conditions were not good, he wanted to stay.
Adult Protective Services has been called to help in the investigation.