DULUTH — A Florida man pleaded not guilty to human smuggling charges in federal court Friday, months after he was arrested with two Indian nationals near the Minnesota-Canadian border.
Steve Anthony Shand, 48, faces one charge of transporting or attempting to illegally transport immigrants. He was in a remote corner of northwest Minnesota near Manitoba to pick up a group that had illegally crossed the Canadian border on foot, according to charges. After he was arrested, five more people were found walking toward the spot where Shand and his passengers were arrested, court documents say. One was carrying a backpack that belonged to a family that had become separated from the group.
Canadian authorities on a snowcat found the family — Jagdish B. Patel, 39; Vaishaliben J. Patel, 37; Vihangi J. Patel, an 11-year-old girl, and Dharmik J. Patel, a 3-year-old boy— frozen to death just yards from the border on the Canadian side across from Kittson County. Temperatures that night had fallen to 10-degrees below and the windchill likely reached 30 below.
Federal officials previously have said they suspect Shand was part of a larger smuggling operation. When he was arrested, he was driving a 15-passenger van rented at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that had water, juice and snacks, they said. Those picked up in the area were wearing similar winter gear, including coats with fur-rimmed hoods, balaclavas and rubber boots, court documents state.
Shand was released on a personal recognizance bond in January. He appeared via Zoom in Duluth for the arraignment.