Trial in Minnesota for a Florida man in a human trafficking case

A Florida man will stand trial this summer in Minnesota on human trafficking charges after he was arrested in January after authorities across the Canadian border found four migrants who froze to death during a blizzard, according to court documents. Federal Court filed Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge John Tunheim has scheduled Steve Shand’s trial to begin on July 18. He is accused of illegally smuggling two people into the country and illegally transporting them once to the United States.

The trial will take place in Fergus Falls, about 60 miles southeast of Fargo, North Dakota.

Authorities said the four bodies were discovered near Emerson, Manitoba, which borders Minnesota and North Dakota. Additionally, five Indian nationals were found walking on the Minnesota side of the border and two others were discovered nearby in Shand’s van.

Shand, of Deltona, Fla., has not been charged in the migrants’ deaths. They froze to death. Authorities also haven’t said whether they believe the dead migrants or those found on foot in Minnesota were passengers in Shand’s van.

Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel (left to right), his son Dharmik Jagdishkumar Patel, his wife and mother Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel and his daughter Vihangi Jagdishkumar Patel are shown in a photo. The family was found frozen in Manitoba near the Canada-US border in January. (Amritbhai Vakil/The Canadian Press)

According to court documents, one of the five walking told authorities his group had crossed the US border, expecting to be picked up by someone on the other side. He said they had walked for almost 12 hours and had been with a family of four Indian nationals earlier but became separated from them overnight.

Neither Shand’s attorney Doug Micko nor federal prosecutor Laura Provinzino immediately responded to phone messages seeking comment.

A federal justice of the peace released Shand without bond, but ordered him to obey several conditions.

The seven migrants found in the van and on foot are charged with entering the United States illegally and have been released pending deportation hearings.

Federal authorities suspect the case is linked to a larger smuggling operation along the Canadian border.