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In 2022, Harshkumar Ramanlal Patel, also known as “Dirty Harry,” was accused of human smuggling after arranging for four members of an Indian family to be brought across the U.S.-Canadian border, despite being warned of blizzard conditions. The family tragically froze to death in the harsh conditions. Patel is scheduled to appear in federal court in Minnesota, facing seven counts of human smuggling, while the driver he allegedly hired, Steve Shand, also faces four counts after being stopped by U.S. Border Patrol in Minnesota with two Indian nationals who had entered the U.S. illegally. Both men have denied the charges against them.

Patel, who is in the U.S. illegally and has been refused a U.S. visa multiple times, is believed to be connected to a human trafficking group in Gujarat, India that smuggled people into Canada on student visas before moving them to the Chicago area to work at Indian restaurants for low wages while repaying their debts to the smugglers. Shand was driving a rented van that was stopped by Border Patrol, who found two illegal Indian nationals inside and five others walking nearby after enduring extreme cold temperatures for over 11 hours. The group claimed they paid a significant sum to be smuggled into the U.S. and that there was a family of four with a small child who had become separated from them during the journey. Tragically, the family was found dead just 33 feet from the border.

The victims, Jagdish Patel, his wife Vaishaliben, and their two children, sought a better life in the U.S. after having worked as teachers in their home village in Gujarat. Their deaths were a tragic reminder of the dangers faced by individuals attempting to cross borders illegally. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed shock at their deaths, as they faced not only harsh weather conditions but also open fields, large snowdrifts, and complete darkness during their journey. Despite wearing winter clothing, it was not enough to save them from their tragic fate.

Unsealed court documents revealed that Harshkumar Patel and Steve Shand had a business relationship, with Patel managing a gaming establishment where the two men met. Shand claimed Patel had initially tried to recruit him to pick up Indian nationals crossing from New York to Canada illegally, but he declined and instead agreed to pick up individuals in Minnesota. For five trips in December 2021 and January 2022, Shand was paid approximately $25,000 by Patel for transporting passengers to various locations in the Chicago area. The details of their operation shed light on the dangerous and illegal activities that take place in the realm of human smuggling across borders.

The tragic deaths of the Indian family served as a stark reminder of the risks and life-threatening conditions faced by individuals involved in human smuggling operations. The heart-wrenching story of the Patel family underscored the dangers of relying on smugglers to cross international borders, as they navigated treacherous terrain and harsh weather conditions in pursuit of a better life. The legal proceedings against Harshkumar Ramanlal Patel and Steve Shand shed light on the interconnected network of human trafficking and the tragic consequences that can result from such illegal activities. As the case unfolds in federal court, the spotlight remains on the devastating impact of human smuggling on vulnerable individuals seeking refuge in new countries.

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