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Florida man granted conditional release in human smuggling case

Shand was granted the release at a pretrial and detention hearing on the afternoon of Monday, Jan. 24, by Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer, of the U.S. District Court of Minnesota.

STEVE SHAND.jpg
Steve Shand, in a booking photo from the Grand Forks County Correctional Center, is being charged with one count of human smuggling, after being arreste dby Border Patrol agents on Wednesday. Jan. 19.
Submitted / Grand Forks County Correctional Center
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GRAND FORKS — Steve Shand, who is facing one count of human smuggling, has been granted a conditional release from detention pending his trial.

Shand was granted the release at a pretrial and detention hearing on the afternoon of Monday, Jan. 24, by Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer, of the U.S. District Court of Minnesota.

He was arrested on a single count of human smuggling on Jan. 19 by U.S. Border Patrol officers when he was discovered to be transporting two Indian nationals in a large white van, about 1 mile south of the border in northwest Minnesota. Shand allegedly was there to pick them up after they had walked across the border.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice Archives’ website, transporting a person who has entered the country illegally is a crime that can be punished by up to five years in prison. However, circumstances can add to that term if the crime was committed for “commercial advantage.” Someone coming to serious harm or dying during the commission of the crime can also add to the sentence.

Shand participated electronically in the hearing from Grand Forks. He will remain in detention until plans have been made for him to return to Florida, where he lives.

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Throughout the 30-minute hearing Shand made no significant statements, only replying “yes ma’am” or “yes your honor” as Bowbeer listed the conditions of his release.

Bowbeer released Shand on what is called an appearance bond — what Bowbeer called a “solemn written oath” to appear before the court when further hearings are held, or when his trial has begun. That oath also means he agrees to report to prison should he be found guilty in the case.

Under the conditions of release, Shand must surrender his passport or any similar travel document or visa. He must have no contact with anyone who may be considered a witness or victim in his human smuggling case. He will be supervised by a probation and pretrial supervisor in Florida, and he was ordered not to travel far from his home, though he is allowed to travel to Minnesota, should he be required to appear in person. Later hearings may take place either online or in person.

“The fact that you are living in Florida is not an excuse” to not appear at any hearing, Bowbeer said.

Shand, like all of his statements on Monday, replied: “Yes ma’am.”

The appearance bond also forbids Shand from violating any other state or federal law. Bowbeer cautioned him that he would have to deal with the “snowballing set of consequences, all of them bad” if he did so, and that any new arrest could have an impact on his current situation.

Shand must not possess a firearm or any other weapon, and he must report any interaction, no matter how inconsequential, to his pretrial supervisor. Failure to do so could jeopardize his appearance bond.

Shand is being represented by Douglas Micko and Sarah Weinman, both federal defense attorneys. Laura Provinzino of the United State Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case. All attorneys agreed with the terms of release.

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After Shand was arrested, officers later discovered five other Indian nationals in the vicinity, who they believe are part of the same group that was riding with Shand. One of the individuals was carrying a backpack with items for a baby, but no baby was with the group. The officers contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and a search was initiated. The bodies of four people thought to be a family, including the baby and an apparent male teenager, were discovered approximately 40 feet north of the U.S.-Canada border.

RCMP officers have not yet identified the four people who died. Autopsies have been ordered to ascertain the cause of their deaths, though they likely died of exposure. The investigation in Canada is ongoing.

Two other Indian nationals suffered cold-weather related injuries. One was treated and released and the other, a woman was airlifted to a hospital after she stopped breathing. Authorities said part of her hand may need to be amputated.

Not much is known about the Indian nationals other than they speak Gujarati, a language spoken in the western Indian state of Gujarat. According to an affidavit signed by John Stanley, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, one of the individuals said he spent a “significant” amount of money to obtain a fraudulent student visa for Canada. He said he did not intend to study there, and that he intended to cross the border into the U.S., and that he expected someone would pick him up and drive him to his uncle’s home in Chicago.

David Marcus, a Border Patrol agent, told the Herald the Indian nationals have been processed according to the Immigration and Nationality Act. They may soon face removal proceedings.

There are consequences for illegally crossing the border and hopefully these consequences will act to deter future crossing attempts, said Marcus.

Related Topics: U.S.-CANADIAN BORDER
Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

Desk: 701-780-1110
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