GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Several people involved in what authorities are calling a possible human trafficking case faced a judge for the first time Wednesday morning after their SUV was pulled over and drugs were found a day earlier on Interstate 85 in Gaston County.
"We know it passes through here every day,” Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman said. “It's just a matter of being at the right place at the right time."
Troopers said they stopped 37-year-old Edgar Ortiz-Jarquin, who was driving a gray Toyota Sequoia with Arizona tags, around 3:30 p.m. on I-85 near York Road and got consent to search the SUV.
Troopers said they were looking for drugs when they pulled the vehicle over.
Ortiz-Jarquin and another man ran from the SUV but were taken into custody a short time later.
Inside the vehicle, investigators said they found 900 grams of meth and 500 grams of marijuana. Also in the SUV were six other men and a woman -- ages 16 to 30 -- and officials think some of them may be human trafficking victims.
"I was just driving by and there (were) about eight cops out there,” witness and motorist Curtis Johnson said. “(There were) about six Hispanic males and females sitting out."
Trooper Ray Pierce said it's unusual to discover a human trafficking operation on a highway.
"We don't have this," Pierce said. "We're not specifically out here looking for it, so this is a rare occurrence that we stumble upon it."
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