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Man Enters Not Guilty Plea in Case of Fatal Border Crossing Attempt by Indian Family

Friday, March 29, 2024 • Tamil Comments
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The man referring to himself as "Dirty Harry," Harshkumar Ramanlal Patel, has pleaded not guilty to seven human smuggling charges that include bringing people into the country's snowbelt and transporting four Indian nationals who died in 2022 from the cold while crossing from Canada to Minnesota. Patel entered his plea during a teleconference with U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo Brisbois of Duluth.

Another accused in the same case, Steven ShShandso, also pleaded not guilty to four counts of human smuggling during the same hearing. Patel hired Shand to transport the Indian nationals from the Canadian border to the Chicago area, but left him free on his own recognizance.

Patel, who has been denied a visa to the U.S. multiple times and has remained without documentation in the country, was arrested last month in Chicago and is presently in federal custody.

Court documents say Patel was part of a human trafficking group based in the Indian state of Gujarat that arranged for Indian nationals to be smuggled into Canada on student visas and later transported them to the Chicago area. The smugglers reportedly exploited the migrants for cheap labor at Indian restaurants while they repaid their debts to them.

Shand was allegedly operating a van that Patel had rented when the U.S. authorities stopped it. Border Patrol stopped a minivan in Minnesota in January 2022. In the minivan, there were two Indian nationals who had entered the U.S. illegally. They found another five nearby, moving around in the icy temperatures.

Tragically, the border in Manitoba, Canada, later revealed the deaths of four members of the group, including two children. The messages exchanged between Shand and Patel hint at knowledge about the perilous conditions that have affected a lot of migrants along the way. It reveals, however, that Patel had a wider relationship with the victims than the one that linked him to being part of an alleged smuggling operation.

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