Man accused of human smuggling attempt that left 4 dead pleads not guilty

A man charged with human smuggling after four people were found frozen to death last year has entered a plea in federal court.

Steve Shand, 47, from Deltona, Florida, pleaded not guilty to two counts of human smuggling on Friday. He is not charged for the deaths of the migrants.

Shand’s jury trial is set to begin on July 17.

RELATED: Florida man federally charged with human smuggling at US-Canada border

The incident left a family of four frozen to death near the Canadian border.

The victims were all Indian nationals and were found by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police near Emerson, Manitoba.

They are identified as Jagdishkumar Patel, 39, Vaishaliben Patel, 37, Vihanggi Patel, 11, and 3-year-old Dharmik Patel.

Canadian Police have identified the four people found frozen to death near the U.S. and Canadian border as four family members from India.

An autopsy has confirmed the four victims died due to exposure. Authorities believe the family died while trying to cross the border during a blizzard.

Shand was arrested by U.S. Border Patrol agents during a traffic stop between the entry ports of Lancaster, Minnesota, and Pembina, North Dakota, after being identified as the driver of a white-colored passenger van transporting undocumented Indian nationals.

Shand was charged with human smuggling after seven other Indian nationals were found in the U.S. in addition to the bodies.

Court documents allege one of the people spent a significant amount of money to come to Canada with a fraudulent student visa.

According to documents, a U.S. Border Patrol in North Dakota stopped a 15-passenger van just south of the Canadian border. Shand was driving and court documents allege he was with two Indian nationals.

Around the same time, court documents said five other people were spotted by law enforcement in the snow nearby. The group, who were also Indian nationals, told officers they’d been walking for more than 11 hours in frigid conditions.

A woman stopped breathing several times as she was transported to hospital. Court documents said she will require partial amputation of her hand. A man was also hospitalized for frostbite but was later released.

American authorities allege in court documents that Shand has likely been involved in other border crossings, including two other incidents in December 2021.