Alleged U.S. human smuggler under investigation by RCMP in death of Indian family at Canadian border


The RCMP is investigating a convicted fraudster and alleged human smuggler in reference to the death of an Indian family at the U.S.-Canada border in January, CBC’s The Fifth Estate has realized.

The discovery of the Patel family, frozen to death in southern Manitoba, simply metres from the U.S. border, put a highlight on human smuggling operations involving Indian migrants utilizing Canada as a stopover earlier than illegally crossing south.

On Jan. 19, the our bodies of three-year-old Dharmik Patel; his 11-year-old sister, Vihangi Patel; their mom, 37-year-old Vaishali Patel; and their father, 39-year-old Jagdish Patel; had been discovered in a snow-covered area east of Emerson, about 100 kilometres south of Winnipeg.

But 9 months after their deaths, the RCMP nonetheless have not established fundamental particulars in regards to the family’s journey to the border and are trying at an accused human smuggler who was working in Washington state.

  • Watch “Death at the Border” on The Fifth Estate on CBC-TV Thursday at 9 p.m. or stream on CBC Gem.

Rajinder Pal Singh, a 48-year-old Indian citizen residing illegally in the U.S., was beforehand convicted of financial institution fraud and forging paperwork. He was arrested in Washington state in May by particular brokers with U.S. Homeland Security after a four-year investigation and was charged with conspiracy to move and harbour sure aliens for revenue.

Jagdish Patel, left; son Dharmik; spouse Vaishali and daughter Vihangi are proven in this family picture launched to the media at the time of their death in January. (Vaishali Patel/Facebook)

U.S. prosecutors allege that Singh was half of a community that smuggled Indian migrants over the British Columbia border close to Blaine, Wash. 

Once the migrants crossed, Singh allegedly used the rideshare app Uber to select them up close to the border and transport them to protected homes across the Seattle space, based on the U.S. authorities criticism. He then organized for flights or rides to the U.S. Midwest, together with the larger Chicago space. Singh allegedly charged as a lot as $11,500 US per individual for arranging the shuttle service.

Singh got here to Manitoba RCMP’s consideration as a result of of feedback he made in January that had been overheard as half of surveillance by U.S. Homeland Security investigators. 

‘We need to do it from Winnipeg’

According to a criticism filed in U.S. federal courtroom, in January Singh is heard discussing current U.S. Border Patrol arrests of unlawful migrants getting into the U.S. from Canada.

“[T]hey know from the place these persons are f–king coming. One hundred per cent (100%),” Singh is quoted as saying, based on the criticism.

“[S]o now if we [Indian smuggling organizations, generally] wish to do that work, then we now have to do it from Winnipeg. I spoke to [deleted] in Toronto. He has two drivers who can decide up individuals from that facet,” Singh stated.

The dialog allegedly passed off the identical month the Patel family was being moved to the Canadian border in Manitoba.

A criticism filed in U.S. federal courtroom in Washington state particulars how investigators tracked Uber rides carrying migrants who had crossed illegally into the U.S. from Canada. (U.S. Department of Justice)

In one other recorded dialog that very same month, Singh is allegedly caught speaking about organising protected homes in Canada: “I maintain telling them that we want an individual to deal with these individuals and to drop them off … in Canada. Then all the recreation is in our palms.” 

Canada is talked about once more in one other January recording, when Singh is overheard speaking about his smuggling charge.

“[F]rom now on make it [$11,500] as a result of there are rather a lot of bills,” Singh is heard saying. “I’ll provide you with a separate account quantity, so deposit the cash in that account…. I’ve to present this cash to [deleted]. He is in Canada.”

Sgt. Gary Bird, an skilled murder investigator in Manitoba, is main the RCMP’s investigation into the deaths of the Patels.

In an interview with The Fifth Estate, Bird confirmed his staff is trying at Singh: “I can not remark in nice element on an investigation finished by one other group, nevertheless, it actually piqued our curiosity.” 

Immigration lawyer Deepak Ahluwalia has represented migrants who’ve crossed illegally from Canada into the U.S. and says smugglers don’t put together them for the dangerous and harmful journey. (Steven D’Souza/CBC)

California-based immigration lawyer Deepak Alhuwalia reviewed the Singh courtroom submitting for The Fifth Estate. Alhuwalia, who represents migrants who’ve crossed illegally from Canada into the U.S., stated Singh’s feedback, coming across the time the Patels had been in Canada, may present he is aware of one thing. 

“I do not know if it is a coincidence as a lot as these brokers have an unlimited community — they know which checkpoint is scorching proper now, and which one is perhaps not getting used as a lot or frequented and they’re going to shift them backward and forward,” stated Alhuwalia, who grew up in Brampton, Ont., earlier than transferring to the U.S.

A missed alternative?

While Singh may probably shed new mild on the Patel investigation, there are questions on why it took months for Manitoba RCMP to study him. 

U.S. Homeland Security investigators and U.S. prosecutors declined to touch upon the Singh case. But based on the U.S. authorities’s criticism, they had been investigating him for 4 years, going again to 2018.

In an interview with The Fifth Estate, the U.S. Border Patrol’s chief patrol agent in Blaine, Wash., David BeMiller, stated they do keep shut ties with the RCMP.

“Working with our RCMP companions, the data sharing of each the intelligence in addition to the exercise that we see, is crucial for us concentrating on the felony exercise,” BeMiller stated.

David BeMiller, chief patrol officer for the U.S. Border Patrol’s Blaine sector in Washington state, says individuals from India are among the many foremost teams of migrants they discover crossing from Canada into the U.S. (Steven D’Souza/CBC)

Indeed, The Fifth Estate has realized that British Columbia RCMP had been conscious that Singh was allegedly smuggling Indian migrants by means of Canada whereas the U.S. investigation was ongoing.

In a press release emailed to The Fifth Estate, B.C. RCMP confirmed they “had been made conscious of the American investigation” into Singh however that “our involvement was restricted to the sharing of intelligence and we weren’t required to help their investigation nor was there ample proof of an offence in Canada to help a parallel investigation.”

According to B.C. RCMP, an offence solely happens when migrants illegally cross into the U.S.

“Our evaluation of the intelligence means that people are getting into Canada legally, with legally obtained journey and identification paperwork,” B.C. RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Kris Clark stated in the assertion, including that the RCMP is “conscious of the presence of human smuggling, each into and out of Canada, by organized crime teams and investigates these and different associated offences, and helps investigations by its accomplice companies the place crucial.”

Three provinces away, nevertheless, Manitoba RCMP tasked with investigating who led the Patels to their deaths in January say they solely realized of U.S. Homeland Security’s four-year probe into Singh in late May when his arrest made information in the U.S.

“I turned conscious of the case because it unfolded in the media, as I’m positive others did,” Bird stated.

The RCMP recovered the frozen our bodies of the Patel family simply metres contained in the Canadian border in southern Manitoba on Jan. 19. (RCMP)

The questions raised by the Singh case pose an agonizing “What if?” Given that U.S. investigators have compiled greater than 25,000 pages of proof in opposition to Singh, was there one thing in there that U.S. Homeland Security and the RCMP may have acted on sooner?

Could the Patels’ journey have been stopped?

“I’m not conscious of the total scope of that investigation and I can not touch upon how that investigation passed off,” Bird stated. “That’s finally as much as Homeland Security in the United States to talk to. However, that is a good query.”

Immigration lawyer Alhuwalia stated U.S. authorities had greater than sufficient proof to arrest Singh going again to 2018, suggesting they had been looking for different members of the alleged smuggling community. 

“Reading all the criticism, I might say that we did not discover that individual or these individuals.”

The chance that the Patels’ lives may have been saved if Singh had been arrested sooner is “a really scary thought,” Alhuwalia stated.

Who is Rajinder Pal Singh?

Living in the U.S. under a quantity of aliases, Singh did stints in jail in 2003 and 2009, in between he was deported again to India. He then smuggled himself again into the U.S. and was residing in northern California and Washington state earlier than being arrested this fourth time. 

In 2003, Singh was sentenced to 21 months in a U.S. federal jail for financial institution fraud and making false statements on a passport utility. After serving his jail time, he was deported again to India in 2004. 

Not lengthy after, Singh, who had left a girlfriend and two kids residing legally in Olympia, Wash., smuggled himself again into the U.S. by means of Canada, based on courtroom paperwork. 

In 2008, inspectors at JFK airport in New York found a bundle containing greater than two dozen pretend passport pages and cast U.S. immigrant visas. Using a monitoring system, U.S. Homeland Security investigators adopted the bundle to a home in Olympia. When Singh’s girlfriend opened the bundle, authorities moved in. 

U.S. Homeland Security investigators monitoring alleged human smuggler Rajinder Pal Singh watched suspected unlawful migrants come and go from this residence in Lacey, Wash. (U.S. Department of Justice)

In 2009, Singh pleaded responsible to financial institution fraud and unlawful reentry after deportation. He was sentenced to a different 27 months in U.S. federal jail.

Singh’s trial on the present costs is scheduled for March 2023. He is being held in a federal jail in Seattle.

His lawyer, Chris Black, declined to remark for this story.

Constructing a timeline

The Singh lead comes after the RCMP has hit quite a few roadblocks in their makes an attempt to reconstruct the Patels’ journey from India to the spot the place Jagdish’s physique was discovered frozen, huddled together with his two kids, his spouse close by. They had been 12 metres from the U.S. border.

Just days into their investigation final January, the RCMP disclosed publicly that the Patels had arrived in Canada at Toronto’s Pearson airport on Jan. 12.

WATCH | The Patel family arriving at the airport in Toronto:

Patel family arrives at Pearson airport

Exclusive video obtained by The Fifth Estate exhibits the Patel family arriving at Toronto’s Pearson airport on Jan. 12. Per week later, their our bodies could be discovered alongside the Canada-U.S. border in Manitoba.

But during the last 9 months, the RCMP has not offered any additional data — till now.

Bird revealed to The Fifth Estate {that a} non-public particular person picked up the Patels at Pearson. 

From there, Bird stated, the family spent just a few days in the Greater Toronto Area in “a pair of resorts, a non-public residence, and utilized totally different varieties of transportation … a ride-sharing service in addition to private rides from people who they had been related to.” 

“The final location we’re conscious of for the Patel family in the Greater Toronto Area was at a resort on the fifteenth,” Bird stated. “So we’re left with a niche between the fifteenth and finally up till their deaths on the nineteenth when their our bodies had been discovered.”

Bird wouldn’t reveal who sheltered and shuttled the Patels in the Toronto space. 

Other witnesses

The RCMP have additionally had issue talking with seemingly the final individuals to see the Patels alive: seven different Indian migrants who made it throughout the Canada-U.S. border in southern Manitoba the morning of Jan. 19.

U.S. Border Patrol took them into custody and took statements, however launched them earlier than the RCMP may conduct interviews for his or her Patel investigation. 

Bird stated they’ve spoken to some of the migrants — however others have disappeared into the U.S. immigration courtroom system.

“They have confirmed to be tough to find,” Bird stated, including that “we now have labored with a quantity of companies by means of the United States together with Homeland Security, together with U.S. Border Patrol, in an try and find these people.”

So far, the one individual arrested with any connection to the Patels is Steve Shand, a former Uber, Lyft and taxi driver from Deltona, Fla.

He was stopped by U.S. Border Patrol on the morning of Jan. 19 with two of the seven Indian migrants in his rented 15-seat passenger van in northern Minnesota, simply southwest of the place the Patels’ our bodies had been discovered in Canada. 

Shand is charged with bringing in and harbouring sure aliens. He was conditionally launched and allowed to return to Florida whereas he awaits trial in Minnesota. His trial is scheduled for early December.

A deadly journey

Police imagine the Patels had been dropped off close to the border in southern Manitoba on the night time of Jan. 18. It was –35 C in a single day. With nothing however open, snow-covered fields, the Patels had no shelter and certain no thought the place they had been or the place they had been going.

“I do not imagine the Patel family understood the scope of the risks they had been going through,” Bird stated. “Our officers had issue using automobiles to even observe the identical path they had been strolling on.”

Their our bodies had been found greater than 4 hours after U.S. Border Patrol brokers found Shand and the seven different Indian migrants who had made it throughout the identical stretch of border the morning of Jan. 19. Two had been affected by hypothermia and one would want to have her hand partially amputated. 

One migrant informed investigators that they had been wandering for greater than 11 hours. One of the group members had objects meant for an toddler, however when police noticed there was no small little one with the group, they contacted RCMP and started a search. 

“The incontrovertible fact that the Patel family tried to cross that night was fully pointless and harmful,” Bird stated.

“And I imagine that the individual or individuals that facilitated that journey have to be held accountable.”

Sgt. Gary Bird of the RCMP’s main crime providers says investigators nonetheless have a black gap relating to how the Patel family travelled from the Toronto space to the Manitoba-U.S. border in late January. (CBC)

The Patels had been discovered sporting the identical fundamental winter clothes as the opposite seven migrants.

“It was winter clothes I could contemplate to put on in [–5 C] shovelling a driveway. In no approach had been they ready clothes sensible to aim to make that journey,” Bird stated

Alhuwalia agrees that the Patels seemingly had no thought of the situations at the crossing.

“I do not assume any father or mother in their proper thoughts would have stated: ‘I’m going to proceed this journey’ and stroll for the quantity of hours that they did,” Alhuwalia stated, noting that security is not the smuggler’s first concern.

“That’s what makes this journey all of the extra harmful, as a result of [the smuggler’] motive is simply monetary. Their motive is to get your cash, their motive is not to get you throughout safely.”


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