Not guilty plea entered for man accused in U.S.-Canada human… | WORLD
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Not guilty plea entered for man accused in U.S.-Canada human smuggling case

A border marker, between the United States and Canada is shown just outside of Emerson, Manitoba, on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. Photo by John Woods/The Canadian Press via The Associated Press, File

Not guilty plea entered for man accused in U.S.-Canada human smuggling case

The pleas were entered on behalf of 28-year-old Harshkumar Ramanlal Patel on Wednesday in response to seven counts of human smuggling. Patel was accused of transporting humans across the border from Canada and into Minnesota, including an Indian family of four who froze to death attempting to make the trip in 2022. On Jan. 19, 2022, U.S. border agents allegedly stopped a vehicle that contained Indian nationals who were attempting to enter the country illegally. Five other nationals were walking nearby and said they had been walking for over 11 hours in subzero temperatures and had become separated from a family of four during the night. Royal Canadian Mounted Police found the family’s remains 33 feet from the U.S. border. The victims were identified as Jagdish Patel, his wife Vaishaliben, their daughter, 11-year-old Vihangi, and son, 3-year-old Dharmik. It is unclear if they were related to the defendant, as Patel is a common name in India. The driver of the vehicle, 49-year-old Steven Shand, was also charged in connection with the case and pleaded not guilty during the same Wednesday hearing.

Was Patel working alone?  Court documents cited by The Associated Press allege that Patel was working with a human trafficking ring based out of northwest India. Investigators say the group would smuggle people into Canada on student visas and then move them to Chicago, where they would pay off their debts working for sub-standard rates in restaurants.

Dig deeper:  Listen to Paul Butler’s report on The WORLD and Everything in It podcast about experts urging Congress to protect vulnerable and exploited children.

Johanna Huebscher

Johanna Huebscher is a student at Bob Jones University and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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