Two men indicted in connection with death of Indian migrant family on Canada-US border

Manitoba [Canada]: Two men have been indicted by US federal prosecutors in connection with the tragic death of an Indian migrant family over two years ago along the US-Canada border in Manitoba, CBC News reported.

Steve Shand from Deltona, Florida, found himself named in a superseding indictment filed in US District Court, District of Minnesota, alongside Harshkumar Ramanlal Patel, an Indian citizen residing in Florida, court documents revealed.

The saga unfolded when US border patrol agents apprehended Shand and two migrants in a rented 15-seater passenger van on a snowy Minnesota highway, just south of the border near Emerson, Manitoba, on a fateful morning in January 2022. Subsequently, five more migrants were captured walking down the same highway shortly after, as reported by CBC News.

Tragically, on that very day, the frozen bodies of Jagdish Patel (39), his wife Vaishali (37), their daughter Vihangi (11), and son Dharmik (3) were found in Canada, mere meters from the US border. They had succumbed to exposure amid a blinding snowstorm and temperatures plummeting to -35°C.

Facing a litany of charges, Harshkumar Patel, unrelated to the deceased, stands accused of seven counts, including conspiracy to transport aliens causing serious bodily injury, aiding and abetting the transport of aliens, and transportation of aliens for commercial advantage and private financial gain.

Shand, indicted alongside Patel, faces four of those charges. His legal entanglement commenced in February 2022 with two counts of human smuggling relating to the migrants found in the van.

Patel's recent arrest at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport shed light on his alleged role. According to a US Homeland Security investigator's affidavit supporting the arrest, Patel purportedly recruited and remunerated Shand to facilitate the migrants' transportation upon their border crossing into the US, reported CBC News.

Following his apprehension in Chicago, Patel was transferred to Minnesota, where he is presently detained in a Sherburne County jail, awaiting arraignment, the date for which remains unspecified.

The emergence of Patel's mugshot, obtained by The Fifth Estate, offers a glimpse into the persona of a man known by investigators by multiple aliases, including "Dirty Harry."

Court documents paint a picture of Patel as the orchestrator on the American side, collaborating with Shand and liaising with counterparts in Canada.

Allegations suggest Patel's involvement in managing a gambling establishment in Florida. Correspondence between Patel and Shand via WhatsApp allegedly spans discussions on logistical arrangements such as rental cars, accommodations, and financial transactions. A detailed analysis of call logs reveals a staggering 210 communications between the two from September 2021 to January 2022.

Investigators assert that Patel furnished Shand with GPS coordinates for a rendezvous near the border, along with contact information for individuals in Canada.

"Make sure everyone is dressed for the blizzard," Shand's text to Patel on January 18, the eve of the family's tragic discovery, underscores the callousness of the operation.

Patel's swift affirmation, "Done," followed by Shand's terse response, "We not losing any money," paints a chilling picture of their disregard for human life in pursuit of profit, CBC News reported.

The court documents further reveal that Shand's involvement in the border crossings wasn't an isolated incident. Allegedly, the January 19 pickup marked his fifth trip to the border area. Previous excursions saw him transporting Indian migrants to the Chicago area, where they were dropped off at various locations.

In a damning admission to investigators, Shand claimed to have earned approximately USD25,000 from his association with Patel.

For the January 18-19 episode alone, court records allege Shand received USD 2,900 upfront and an additional USD 5,000 USD after his release from detention.

As legal proceedings unfold, Shand remains out on bail, while Patel languishes in custody.

Despite the arrests of these two individuals, the story's resolution remains incomplete. While three arrests have been made in India in connection to the case, no charges have been laid against anyone in Canada.

The Fifth Estate's investigative efforts uncovered Fenil Patel, alleged by Indian authorities to be part of the smuggling network, residing just outside Toronto. However, Canadian authorities have remained reticent regarding the allegations against him.

Repeated attempts to engage Fenil Patel for comment proved futile, with his silence speaking volumes when confronted by The Fifth Estate outside his residence, CBC News reported.

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