A Florida man who was charged with federal charges of human smuggling on Friday after being apprehended last year near the U.S.-Canada border with two migrants in a rented passenger van entered a not-guilty plea.
On January 19, 2022, early in the morning, U.S. Border Patrol detained Steve Anthony Shand, 48, of Deltona, Florida, close to the border, roughly seven miles northeast of St. Vincent, Minnesota, according to officials.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, he was charged with two counts of human smuggling, one for each individual in the vehicle.
On Friday, Shand entered a not-guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois through a Zoom conference.
He has not been charged in relation to the deaths of the four migrants or the finding of several additional migrants in the region, as described in the charging documents.
A request for comment made on Saturday evening was not immediately answered by his lawyer, who was present at the video conference on Friday.
The bodies of four people thought to be migrants from western India were discovered nearby, roughly 40 feet from the Canadian border, Royal Canadian Mounted Police reported in a criminal complaint filed in the case, hours after his arrest last year.
ABC News confirms the news on its official Twitter account:
A Florida man charged with human smuggling related to the deaths last year of four immigrants near the Canadian border has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges. https://t.co/0H6UdtqC9p
— ABC News (@ABC) May 28, 2023
Later, the bodies of Jagdish Patel, 39, Vaishaliben Patel, 37, and their children Vihangi, 11, and Dharmik, 3, were recognized by authorities. According to U.S. and Canadian officials, they had split off from a larger group of migrants who had been crossing the border in the midst of blizzard-like conditions and cold temperatures.
According to the lawsuit, a group of five Indian migrants who had broken away from the family that day was found alive and moving in the direction of where Shand was detained.
According to the lawsuit, one of the five survivors claimed to be carrying a backpack for the deceased family.
According to the complaint, one of the two other migrants who were discovered in the vicinity faced having to amputate his hand after developing frostbite.
Patel Family Found Dead in Manitoba
Friends and family have speculated that the Patels, like many other migrants, may have faced dire economic difficulties in India and decided the journey to the United States, which included a trip to Toronto, was worthwhile the risk.
Between the ports of entry in Lancaster, Minnesota, and Pembina, North Dakota, Shand was detained in a remote region. He was detained for five days before being freed pursuant to a judge’s ruling with several restrictions, among them that he not leave Minnesota or Florida.
According to the prosecution, Shand exercised his right to keep silent following his detention.
The paper indicated that Shand, a Jamaican native who had become a naturalized citizen, had chartered the 15-passenger van from a company at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport two days before his detention.
The vehicle was supposed to be returned the following day and was filled with plastic cups, water jugs, snacks, and juice bottles, according to the complaint.
According to the lawsuit, some of the refugees possessed winter clothes that appeared to be brand-new and were comparable to what Shand had.
According to the complaint, similar shoe prints were seen near the border the week before, and five of the seven migrants who survived that day were found wearing the same brand of boots.
Just on the Canadian side, the five individuals who were separated began their crossing. When they were found in the United States, they had traveled less than a mile but had been wandering for more than 11 hours in 0-degree weather.
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