TYLER, Texas (KETK) – A Houston woman has been sentenced to prison for federal immigration violations in east Texas, U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston announced Tuesday.

Maria Elizabeth Lopez pleaded guilty in Aug. 2022 and was indicted by a federal grand jury in Oct. 2022 for “engaging in a conspiracy to transport certain aliens for commercial advantage or private financial gain,” according to the press release.

On Tuesday, Lopez was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge J. Campbell Barker.

According to information presented in court, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office deputies stopped Lopez for a traffic violation in Oct. 2021 and discovered 24 “Hispanic individuals” in the Chevrolet Suburban she was driving. When federal agents arrived on the scene, they determined that the individuals Lopez had with her had illegally entered the United States.

Lopez had been hired to transport the individuals to Mississippi and Florida and later admitted to investigators that she had transported other illegal immigrants in the same manner before.

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and the Alto Police Department. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen Hurst.