(NBC) - Authorities in Houston say 22 people have been indicted in an alleged street gang operation involving human smuggling, brothels and drugs.
Federal prosecutors say a 37 count indictment was returned earlier this month in Houston and partly unsealed on Wednesday.
The conspiracy related counts are linked to sex trafficking prostitution, transportation of immigrants, plus drug and weapons charges.
Authorities say the defendants are accused of operating several brothels in apartments throughout Houston and Mexico.
Prosecutors say some female immigrants were promised they could pay off the cost of smuggling them into the U.S. by working in Houston restaurants.
The immigrants were instead forced into prostitution.
Prosecutors say some defendants were arrested this week while others are already in custody.
Nine suspects remain at large.