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Florida man charged after 4 people were found dead at Canada-US border

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Florida man charged after 4 people were found dead at Canada-US border

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba – A Florida man has been charged with human trafficking after the bodies of four people, including a baby and a teenager, were found in Canada near the US border in what authorities believe to be a Failed crossing attempt during a freezing blizzard.

Steve Shand, 47, was charged Thursday with human trafficking after seven Indian nationals were found in the United States and the bodies found, according to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Minnesota.

Court documents filed Wednesday in support of Shand’s arrest allege that one of the individuals spent a significant amount of money to come to Canada on a fraudulent student visa.

Shand could not immediately be reached for comment. There was no immediate response to an email to the federal public defender’s office, listed in court documents as representing Shand.

According to documents, a US Border Patrol in North Dakota stopped a 15-passenger van just south of the Canadian border on Wednesday. Shand was driving and court documents allege he was with two Indian nationals.

Around the same time, court documents said five more people were spotted by law enforcement in the nearby snow. The group, who were also Indian nationals, told officers they had been walking for more than 11 hours outside in freezing conditions.

A woman repeatedly stopped breathing as she was taken to hospital. Court documents indicate that her hand will have to be partially amputated. A man was also hospitalized with frostbite but was later released.

One of the men in the group was carrying a backpack containing baby supplies. Court documents say he told officers he was from a family that split from the group overnight.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told a news conference in Winnipeg on Thursday that once mounted police were advised the family may still be in Manitoba, officers immediately began searching the region.

After a difficult search in almost impassable terrain, she said officers found three bodies together – a man, a woman and a baby – just 10 meters (33ft) from the border near Emerson, Manitoba. The search continued and a teenager was found a short distance away. We think they died of exposure.

“It’s an absolute and heartbreaking tragedy,” MacLatchy said.

They were wearing winter clothes, she said, but that wouldn’t have been enough to save them in the freezing conditions.

“These victims had to deal not only with the cold, but also with endless fields, large snowdrifts and total darkness,” added MacLatchy.

Shand was arrested on Wednesday and remains in custody. US authorities allege in court documents that Shand was likely involved in other border crossings, including two recent incidents in December.

Officials from both countries said it is more common to see northbound crossings from the United States to Canada. Border crossings into Canada on foot increased in 2016 following the election of former US President Donald Trump.

In December, two men lost their fingers to severe frostbite after being caught in a blizzard while walking from the United States to Manitoba. A few months later, a woman died of hypothermia near the border on the American side.

In 2019, a pregnant woman crossing the border was rescued after being trapped in a snowdrift and giving birth.

Emerson-Franklin Reeve Dave Carlson said illegal crossings there have dropped significantly in recent years. He was surprised to learn of the four deaths.

“If you look at the political climate on both sides of the border, it’s just mind-boggling to me that anyone has had this sense of desperation trying to cross in extreme conditions.”

Deputy Patrick Klegstad of the Kittson County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota said his department supports the US side of the investigation. His officers patrol the “desolate” open fields near the border every day, he said, and the area where people cross is dangerous, especially in cold weather.

“Why did they choose this place to travel would be the million dollar question.”

Klegstad, echoing Canadian officials, said it was rare for people to make the arduous journey from Canada to the United States.

“It’s not very often that we have southerners.”

Florida man charged after 4 people were found dead at Canada-US border

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