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Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office deputies this weekend found 24 people who entered the U.S. illegally hiding inside a vehicle in Rusk around 2 a.m. Sunday during a traffic stop.

A woman is accused of trafficking two dozen people after a traffic stop in Rusk led to the discovery of the passengers who officials said are in the country illegally.

Deputies at about 2 a.m. Sunday stopped a Chevrolet Suburban after seeing it commit a traffic violation on U.S. 69 at FM 84, according to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.

When deputies met with driver Maria Lopez, the sheriff’s office said officers found 24 passengers who were identified as people who came to the U.S. illegally.

Further investigation by Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and the Homeland Security Investigations showed Lopez was the only person in the vehicle who did not come from another country illegally.

The passengers were from Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras, the sheriff’s office said. Lopez is accused of picking up the passengers from Houston and trying to drive them to Mississippi and Florida in exchange for payment.

According to the sheriff’s office, further investigation showed Lopez assisted with smuggling 12 separate loads of people who came into the United States without permission.

On Monday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement picked up 21 of the immigrants and took them to a secured facility in Dallas. The remaining three were released and taken to a temporary shelter in Longview, according to the sheriff’s office.


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I came to the Tyler Morning Telegraph in September 2019. I report on crime, courts, breaking news and various events in Tyler and East Texas.