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Steve Shand, 47, was arrested by USBP agents Wednesday in the rural area between the official ports of border entry in Lancaster, Minnesota, and Pembina, North Dakota, according to the news release.
The two passengers in the van were Indian nationals and were in the US illegally, according to the complaint filed in US District Court for Minnesota.
Shand is charged with one count of “knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien had come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law, transported, and moved or attempted to transport and move such alien,” according to the complaint.
He made his first court appearance on Thursday and was ordered to remain in custody pending a hearing on January 24. Shand’s attorney has not yet responded to CNN’s request for comment.
According to the federal complaint, three separate incidents of human smuggling had recently occurred at that location.
On Wednesday, Canadian authorities found a family of four frozen to death just inside the Canadian side of the border, according to the complaint.
While transporting Shand and the two individuals to the Pembina Border Patrol Station, law enforcement found five other people walking in the area. They were also identified as undocumented Indian nationals, and one of them said they had walked across the border expecting to be picked up by someone, according to the complaint.
They said they had been walking for about 11.5 hours and a family of four Indian nationals who had also been walking with them had got separated during the night. One of the men was carrying their backpack, which contained a diaper, toys, children’s clothes, and children’s medication, the complaint said.
The weather was terrible at the time, according to the complaint, due to high winds, blowing snow and temperatures well below zero.
Officials have tentatively identified the four bodies as the family that got separated, Royal Canadian Mounted Police told border agents, according to the complaint. But, Shand has not been charged in relation to the deaths and an investigation is ongoing.
Two of the people found walking had to be taken to hospital for suspected frostbite due to the extremely cold weather conditions, and one of them, a woman, may lose part of her hand, the complaint said.
One of the Indian nationals told Border Patrol agents that he had paid a significant amount of money to enter Canada from India under a fraudulently obtained student visa, according to the complaint.
He added that he didn’t intend to study in Canada, but had planned to enter the US illegally and had crossed the border on foot expecting to be picked up by someone who was supposed to drive him to his uncle’s home in Chicago, the complaint stated.
At this time, there is an ongoing investigation into a larger human smuggling operation that Shand is suspected to have participated in, according to the complaint.