Winnipeg — U.S. investigators believe that the deaths of four people, including babies and teens, whose bodies were found in Manitoba near the U.S. border, are associated with larger human smuggling operations. increase.
According to the Minnesota Federal Attorney’s Office, 47-year-old Steve Shand was charged with trafficking after seven Indians were found in the United States and their bodies were found.
A court document filed Wednesday in support of Shand’s arrest alleges that some people spent a considerable amount of money to come to Canada on a fraudulent student visa.
Homeland Security Special Agent John Stanley said in a court document, “The investigation into the deaths of four people in Canada is a larger human smuggling operation suspected of being part of Shand. It is underway with the investigation. ” ..
According to the document, officials from the US Border Guard in North Dakota stopped the car on Wednesday just south of the border. Shand is driving and court documents claim he was with two undocumented Indians.
Around the same time, according to documents, five others were found by law enforcement in the nearby snow. The group, who was also an Indian citizen, told officers that he had been walking for more than 11 hours in frigid conditions.
The woman taken to the hospital held her breath several times. According to court documents, she will need a partial amputation of her hand. The man was also hospitalized for frostbite, but was later released.
One of the men in the group had a backpack with baby products. According to court documents, he told officers that it belonged to a family separated from the group overnight.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane McClutch said at a press conference in Winnipeg that police officers immediately began investigating the area after being informed that Manitoba might still have a family.
After a difficult search in nearly impassable terrain, she said police officers found together the bodies of a man, a woman and a baby, just 10 meters from the border near the man’s Emerson. .. The search continued and a teenage boy was found some distance away. They are believed to have died from exposure.
“It’s an absolute and tragic tragedy,” MacLatchy said.
They wore winter clothes, she said, but that wouldn’t have been enough to save them in a frozen state.
“These victims faced not only cold weather, but endless fields, heavy snowdrifts, and total darkness,” MacLatchy added.
Shand was arrested Wednesday and remains in custody. U.S. officials allege in the document that Shand was likely involved in other border crossings, including twice in December.
Officials from both countries said it was more common to see the northern crossroads from the United States to Canada. After the election of former US President Donald Trump, the number of border crossings to Canada increased on foot in 2016.
That December, two men lost their fingers in severe frostbite after being caught in a snowstorm while walking from the United States to Manitoba. A few months later, a woman died of hypothermia near the American border.
In 2019, a pregnant woman who walked across the border was rescued after being trapped in a snowman and giving birth.
Emerson-Franklin Reeve Dave Carlson said the number of illegal intersections there has dropped significantly in recent years. He was surprised to learn of the deaths of four people.
“Looking at the political situation on both sides of the border, it’s daunting to me that everyone had the despair of trying to cross in extreme situations.”
Patrick Kregstad, deputy Sheriff’s Office in Kittson County, Minnesota, said his department is supporting the American side of the investigation. He said the policeman patrols “desolate” fields near the border every day, and the areas where people crossed are dangerous, especially in the cold.
“Why they chose that place for their trip would be a million dollars issue.”
Responding to Canadian officials, Mr. Kregstad said he rarely had people make a tragic journey from Canada to the United States.
“There is rarely a South Bounder.”
Mounties should not try to cross the border in either direction outside the checkpoint. I warned you that it could be fatal.
“Don’t listen to anyone telling you that you can safely take you to your destination. They can’t,” MacLatchy said.
Anthony Good, Sector Chief Border Patrol Agent in Grand Forks, North Dakota, said that anyone who is thinking of crossing the border illegally in these dangerous situations should not do it.
“Smugglers only care about the money they intend to make and do not consider lost lives at all,” he said in a statement.
Kelly Geraldine Malone
Using files from Edmonton’s Fakiha Baig and Emerson’s Brittany Hobson