The kids allegedly slept on a cement floor and were forced to sell trinkets to tourists in exchange for food.
The search for missing 2-year-old Dylan Esaú Gómez Pérez led Mexican authorities to a home in a popular tourist town with 23 abducted children, including three babies, who were forced to sell trinkets in the street, prosecutors said.
All 23 of the children at the San Cristóbal de las Casas home in Chiapas state, near the Guatamalan border, were between the ages of 3 months and 15 years old, according to authorities, and it is believed that the other children had been used to lead Dylan away.
“Many of them were forced to go out on the streets to sell things, and moreover they were forced to return with a certain minimum amount of money for the right to get food and a place to sleep at the house,” state prosecutor Jorge Llaven said, according to the Associated Press.
Llaven added that the kids endured “physical and psychological violence” and showed signs of “malnutrition and precarious conditions.” Prosecutors said a video showed the children sleeping on cardboard and blankets on a cement floor.
Dylan was not one of the kids found.
“I haven’t heard about my son,” his 23-year-old mom Juana Pérez told reporters Tuesday.
Dylan, who reportedly speaks the indigenous language Tzotzil, had been with Pérez at the market when he was led away last month. Pérez works at the market selling produce and is known warmly to other vendors as “Gordito,” which means chubby.
According to Pérez, her son often goes off to play while she’s working but she has never previously heard of any kids being snatched at the market.
Surveillance footage later showed Dylan following a boy, around 12 years old, away while a girl, also around 12 years old, takes him by the back of the jacket and leads him out of the market, Llaven said. She then reportedly returned to the market alone.
Footage also showed the pair talking to a woman who became a suspect in the case, and $13,500 reward was offered for any information of her location or Dylan’s.
Three women have been detained in connection with the case and may face human trafficking and forced labor charges, the Associated Press reported.
All 23 of the kids found were handed over to child welfare authorities.