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COLUMBUS - U.S. Border Patrol agents detained 10 undocumented immigrants inside a white minivan, and the driver, after they were stopped near the Luna County border town of Columbus.

Evelyn Limas, 33, of Casa Grande, Arizona, was allegedly driving the van westbound on New Mexico State Road 9 when she was pulled over about 9 a.m. Saturday by a border agent.

Limas told the agent she was an Uber driver who was transporting those inside the van to Ruidoso, court documents state. The agent claimed he was suspicious of her story because she was traveling in the opposite direction of Ruidoso.

Court documents state the agent asked the 10 inside the minivan if they were United States citizens and they all said they were from Mexico. 

Limas and the 10 suspected of entering the country illegally were placed under arrest and transported to the Deming Border Patrol Station. 

MORE: Locking down revenue: Small NM towns profit from incarcerating migrants

Court documents state Limas declined to comment further without an attorney present. 

Limas has been charged with one felony count of smuggling illegal aliens. 

Crossing the border

A woman inside the minivan explained to border agents how she ended up illegally entering the United States. Her statement to authorities was included on court documents. 

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 US-Mexico border, court documents state. The driver allegedly told the group to cross the border and head to a nearby highway. 

MORE: New Mexico sues feds over policy that drops migrants into cities

The woman told agents that the 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 westbound in a white minivan. 

Court documents state the agent spotted a minivan matching the description he was given, and called dispatch asking for registration checks. 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.

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Bethany Freudenthal can be reached at bfreudenthal@lcsun-news.com, 575-541-5449 or @bethanyfreuden1 on Twitter. 

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