Undercover officers investigating a car theft ring stumbled upon a garage packed with nearly 50 illegal aliens when they heard moaning and groaning coming from inside, police said.
Officers were questioning four men Monday night in connection with auto theft and parts stripping operations about a mile west of downtown Los Angeles when they were alerted by sounds coming from the nearby garage, Sgt. John Johnston said.
"They literally stumbled on it," he said.
The 46 aliens from Mexico told police they were waiting to be smuggled north to work as fruit pickers and farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley, he said, noting, "It's probably a coyote safe house from the looks of it so far, a quick transportation point and they disperse from there."
Coyote is the term used by aliens for the smugglers who help them cross the U.S.-Mexico border for a fee.
Along with the undocumented workers, four or five alleged smugglers were arrested, Johnston said. The Immigration and Naturalization Service was called in to handle the case.