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Canada-US border tragedy: Steve Shand to appear in court

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Canada-US border tragedy: Steve Shand to appear in court

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WASHINGTON — A Florida man is scheduled to appear in U.S. court today charged with smuggling migrants across the Canada-U.S. border in a perilous human smuggling scheme that cost the life of four people, including a baby.

Steve Shand, 47, will appear by video before a Minnesota judge for a detention and preliminary hearing.

Shand, of Deltona, Florida, is accused of transporting or attempting to transport illegal aliens.

The victims, believed to belong to an Indian family who perished in the cold, were found a few meters from the border on the Canadian side, near the Manitoba town of Emerson.

Investigators believe they were part of a larger group of Indian migrants trying to enter the United States via Canada.

Their bodies were found on Wednesday, shortly after US Border Patrol officers stopped a passenger van on the US side and found two other undocumented Indian nationals inside.

Around the same time, officers encountered another group of five migrants, one of whom told officers they had been walking in the snow and freezing cold for more than 11 hours.

Justice Department officials say the deaths are likely linked to a larger human trafficking operation – a phenomenon that is virtually a fact of daily life in the southern United States, but rarely seen in the North.

Shand “was encountered driving in a rural area on a dirt road in an area remote from any service, home or point of entry into Canada,” court documents say.

“He was driving in blowing snow and snowdrifts. The weather was rough at the time, with high winds, blowing snow and temperatures well below (-34°C).”

Evidence detailed in the documents also suggests that the group was not the first to make the perilous journey recently: twice in December and once in January, Border Patrol agents found boot prints in the snow before Shand’s arrest near where the van was stopped.

On Jan. 12, officers found fingerprints that “matched the branding of the types of boots worn by five of the seven foreign nationals arrested in connection with the ongoing smuggling event,” the documents say.

On or about December 12 and December 22, “two groups of four people appeared to have crossed the border into the United States and were picked up by someone in a vehicle.”

In the first incident, RCMP officers found a backpack at a location in Manitoba “assumed to be the drop off point” that contained a price tag in Indian rupees.

A Florida court filing from 2018 shows that Shand, a naturalized citizen originally from Jamaica, filed for bankruptcy more than three years ago, declaring assets worth $193,343 and liabilities of nearly $160. $000.

Describing himself as an Uber driver, Shand’s assets at the time included two vehicles — a 2016 Toyota SUV and a 2014 Honda Civic — and the $161,957 single-family home in the Central Florida community where he lives.

Consular officials met over the weekend in Winnipeg to assist in the investigation and help identify the migrants and locate their family members. As of Sunday evening, the victims had not been publicly identified.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 24, 2022.

Canada-US border tragedy: Steve Shand to appear in court

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