Investigators say family members were waiting along the interstate in Charlotte for a male relative who was apparently arriving from Mexico.
The Highway Patrol said when the family couldn't pay all the money the driver wanted, he would not allow the man to leave the van.
A cousin called authorities and followed the van, relaying its location to troopers.
Officials say there were 18 people in the van, including the driver and an associate.
Barger says everyone in the van was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to determine their citizenship status.