Driver accused of trafficking 24 people after Cherokee County traffic stop
CHEROKEE COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - After Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office deputies made a traffic stop on a Chevrolet Suburban, they found 24 people who were in the country illegally packed into the SUV Sunday. The driver was arrested.
According to a post on the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, CCSO deputies made a traffic stop on a Chevrolet Suburban near the intersection of U.S. Highway 69 South and FM 84 East in Rusk after they saw the driver make a traffic violation.
When the CCSO deputies went to speak with Maria Lopez, the driver, they found 24 people who were in the country illegally in the SUV.
“Upon further investigation by Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), it was determined that all of the passengers with the exception of Lopez, entered the United States illegally. The passengers were originally from Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras,” the Facebook post stated.
The Facebook post stated that Lopez picked up all of her passengers in Houston and was driving them to Mississippi and Florida for compensation.
As the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations investigated further, they learned that Lopez has assisted with smuggling separate loads of people into the United States illegally.
On Monday, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents picked up 21 of Lopez’ passengers and transported them to a secure facility in Dallas, the Facebook post stated. The other three people were released and taken to a temporary shelter in Longview.
Cherokee County Sheriff Brent Dixon said that Lopez was charged with smuggling people for pecuniary benefits, which is a federal charge.
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