HICKMAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – A traffic violation on Interstate 40 East in Hickman County led to the discovery a man who was trafficking 12 people.
According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the incident occurred on Feb. 8 after Trooper Jeremy Miller stopped a Toyota Sienna.
When Miller asked the driver for his driver license, he said he did not have one but he identified himself as Bernado Mateo-Lucas.
The trooper then questioned him about how many people were in the car. Mateo-Lucas said there were four others in the vehicle.
However, as Miller continued to question Mateo-Lucas, he noticed an additional person lying under a blanket in the floor behind the driver’s seat and four more lying on the floor.
The trooper then realized a total of 13 people were in the car, including nine adults and four juveniles.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection Blue Lighting Operations Center (BLOC) was contacted and given the driver’s name and information. They told the trooper Mateo-Lucas is an admitted illegal immigrant from Guatemala who has a history of human smuggling. They also said his passport was fraudulent.
In addition, officials said the 13 people in the car where undocumented aliens traveling from Texarkana, Texas, to Nashville. They were from Mexico and other Central American countries.
Agents with the Nashville HSI Office (HSI) were called to the scene and arrested Mateo-Lucas. He was federally charged with alien smuggling and was referred for federal prosecution in Nashville.
The other adults in the car were taken into custody by the HSI, and the four children were placed in the care of the government.
The investigation into the case is ongoing.