COLUMBUS, N.M. — The U.S. Border Patrol says a Casa Grande woman has been arrested after an agent stopped a van carrying 10 people suspected of entering the country illegally.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reported Wednesday that 33-year-old Evelyn Limas had been charged with felony smuggling following the stop last week near the New Mexico border town of Columbus.
Limas’ court-appointed lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegations.
Court documents say the agent stopped the van after it was observed picking up a group of people who had crossed the border.
According to the documents, Limas told the agent that she was an Uber driver and was taking the group to Ruidoso.
The 10 passengers were arrested and taken to the Deming Border Patrol Station.
A woman inside the minivan told border agents how she ended up illegally entering the United States. Her statement to authorities was included on court documents, the newspaper reported.
She said she agreed to pay $7,000 to be smuggled to Tennessee, court documents state. She allegedly paid a down payment of $800 with a promise to pay the rest when she arrived at her destination.
The woman told agents that she was kept in a “stash house” in Juárez, Mexico, along with 17 others waiting to be brought illegally to the United States.
She claims a man driving a black van picked up her and nine others from the stash house about 4 a.m. Saturday and drove the group about two hours to a point near the U.S.-Mexico border, court documents state. The driver allegedly told the group to cross the border and head to a nearby highway.
The woman told agents that the group walked for about an hour until they reached the highway. About 10 minutes later, a white van approached and flashed its lights and the group entered, court documents state.
About that time, a border agent got a dispatch on his radio about a large group of immigrants who had illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and were now traveling west in a white minivan.
Court documents state the agent spotted a minivan matching the description he was given and called dispatch asking for a registration check. The minivan was discovered to be a rental, so the agent conducted a traffic stop.
When he approached the minivan, the agent saw the vehicle’s passengers trying to hide, court documents state.