A Texas mom is facing a criminal charge after allegedly selling her 7-year-old son in part to settle a drug debt, PEOPLE confirms.
The Texas Department of Public Safety on Thursday announced that 29-year-old Esmeralda Garza, of Corpus Christi, had been arrested on Friday.
“Further investigation revealed two more female children, ages 2 and 3, who were in the process of being sold,” the agency said on its Facebook page.
Agents in the midst of a drug investigation found and recovered the 7-year-old boy while executing a search warrant around 6 a.m. Friday at a home in Nueces County, where a resident of the home said she paid $2,500 to buy the boy from Garza, reports the Corpus Christi Caller Times.
Garza subsequently confirmed the transaction, according to the newspaper, citing her arrest report:
“Garza stated that she and her boyfriend owe drug money and gave her child to [the woman] who pay $500 cash and clear the owe debt and extra $700 when the ‘custody paperwork’ was signed.”
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As part of the ongoing drug investigation, an unidentified male and female also were arrested and jailed in connection with the case, according the Texas Department of Public Safety, which predicted “additional charges” will be filed.
Matt Manning, first assistant attorney in the office of the Nueces County district attorney, tells PEOPLE he can not provide any further details about the transaction or ongoing investigation.
Garza is charged with a single count of the sale or purchase of a child, a third-degree felony that carries a penalty of two to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000, says Manning.
She is being held in lieu of a $100,000 bond in the Neuces County Jail. Detention records do not identify an attorney who could speak on her behalf and it is unclear if she has entered a plea.
The boy has been placed with child welfare officials, according to local TV station KRIS. His relatives told the outlet they “intend to take care of him the best that we know how.”
“We’re saddened by the whole ordeal,” said his grandmother Sandra Guerrero, “but as soon as we get my grandson home, everything will be okay.”