ST. PAUL, Minn. – A federal criminal complaint has been filed against a Florida man charging him with human smuggling, announced Acting United States Attorney Charles J. Kovats.
According to court documents, on January 19, 2022, law enforcement agents with Homeland Security Investigations responded to a request for assistance from the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) based out of Pembina, North Dakota. USBP initiated a traffic stop on a white-colored, fifteen passenger van less than one mile south of the U.S./Canadian border in a rural area between the official ports of entry located at Lancaster, Minnesota and Pembina, North Dakota.
The driver of the vehicle was identified as Steve Shand, 47, a U.S. citizen, from Florida. Law enforcement asked for identification of the two passengers in the van and determined them to be undocumented Indian nationals.
According to court documents, law enforcement discovered cases of plastic cups, bottled water, bottled juice, and snacks located in the extreme rear of the passenger van. Law enforcement also discovered receipts dated January 18, 2022, for the drinks and snacks, and rental agreement receipts in Shand’s name for the van, with the return date listed for January 20, 2022. USBP arrested Shand for smuggling undocumented foreign nationals.
While Shand and the two passengers were being transported to the Pembina Border Patrol Station in North Dakota, law enforcement encountered five additional Indian nationals approximately a quarter mile south of the Canadian border walking in the direction of where Shand was arrested. They appeared to be headed to an unstaffed gas plant located in St. Vincent, Minnesota.
The five Indian nationals explained that they had walked across the border expecting to be picked up by someone. The group estimated they had been walking around for over 11 hours. One of the group members was in possession of a backpack that did not belong to him. He stated he was carrying the backpack for a family of four Indian nationals that had earlier walked with his group but had become separated during the night. The backpack contained children’s clothes, a diaper, toys, and some children’s medication.
According to court documents, later during the day on January 19, 2022, USBP received a report from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that four bodies were found frozen just inside the Canadian side of the international border. The dead bodies were tentatively identified as the family of four that was separated. Two of the surviving Indian nationals sustained serious injuries and were transported to a hospital.
Shand is charged with one count of knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien had come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law, having transported, and moved or having attempted to transport and move such aliens. He made his first appearance today before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer. Shand was ordered to remain in custody pending a preliminary and detention hearing, currently scheduled for January 24, 2022, at 3:00 p.m. before Magistrate Judge Bowbeer.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Provinzino is prosecuting the case.
A complaint is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.