How US cops zeroed in on Gujarat's Dirty Harry and his trafficking racket | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

How US cops zeroed in on Gujarat's Dirty Harry and his trafficking racket

Mar 04, 2024 03:42 PM IST

Harshkumar Ramanlal Patel aka Dirty Harry was arrested in a human trafficking case involving four Gujaratis, who died while being illicitly transported to US

The Chicago police on February 21 apprehended Harshkumar Ramanlal Patel, infamously known as ‘Dirty Harry’, in connection with a disturbing human trafficking case involving four individuals from Dingucha village near Mehsana in Gujarat, who died in a blizzard while being illicitly transported to the US via Canada in January 19, 2022.

A border marker between the United States and Canada just outside of Emerson in Manitoba. (AP File Photo)
A border marker between the United States and Canada just outside of Emerson in Manitoba. (AP File Photo)

The discovery of the frozen corpses of Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel, his wife Vaishaliben, and their children Vihangi and Dharmik, near Emerson, Manitoba on 19 January 2022 sent shockwaves across India and Canada. It highlighted the risks individuals are willing to take in pursuit of the elusive American dream. And it underlined the utter disregard with which human traffickers deal with those who want to illegally enter another country.

Unlock exclusive access to the story of India's general elections, only on the HT App. Download Now!

‘Dirty Harry’ was one such.

The United States District Court, northern district of Illinois, has brought grave charges against Patel, accusing him of “transportation of illegal aliens and conspiracy to bring and attempt to bring an illegal alien to the United States.” These charges, following an extensive investigation, led to Patel’s arrest.

The Dirty Harry case file

According to an affidavit by Manuel Jimenez, a special agent with the US Homeland Security before a United States court on February 22 -- he is investigating the matter pertaining to the death of the Patel family -- Steve Shand, Florida resident, was found driving a rented 15-passenger van in Minnesota near the US/Canada border on January 19, attempting to transport two Indian nationals illegally into the US. The incident took place near Pembina Border Patrol station in North Dakota. Shand was arrested by Border Patrol Agents. A group of five Indian nationals were also found walking near where Shand was arrested and all five were found to be unlawfully present in the United States. The weather on the morning of the smuggling event was extremely cold with blizzard like conditions and one Indian national needed to be hospitalized for cold related injuries, as per the court affidavit. HT has reviewed a copy of the affidavit.

The Indians, all Gujaratis, were interviewed by border patrol agents, Jimenez added, and one, identified only as V.D., admitted crossing the border in the early morning, expecting a pickup on the US side to reach his uncle’s residence in Chicago. V.D. said he had paid approximately $ 87,000 to an Indian organization to facilitate entry into Canada with a fraudulent student visa, then illegally entered the United States.

The discovery of a backpack containing children’s belongings in VD’s possession, despite no children being present, unraveled a deeper tragedy. VD confessed he was carrying it for a family separated from his group. Soon after, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police found four frozen bodies near the US/Canada border. VD’s identification of them as the Patels from Dingucha shed light on the tragic fate of the family.

Shand’s phone records revealed conversations with an individual known as Dirty Harry from December 9, 2021, to January 19, 2022. Investigations showed that the phone number associated with Dirty Harry or Haresh Patel did not have a street address. Patel and Shand exchanged approximately 200 calls and texts during this period.

On March 9, 2022 Shand identified Patel from a photograph and said the man, whom he knew as “Dirty Harry” recruited him to transport illegal aliens from the US/Canadian border in Minnesota to the Chicago area for money. Shand described five trips he had made to the international border in Minnesota in December 2021 and January 2022 to transport Indian nationals.

Patel was the manager of a gambling station in Orange City, Florida called the Preview Games , Shand met him for the first time while gambling and picking up clients for his taxi business, Shand’s Taxi, LLC.

Who is Dirty Harry?

Dirty Harry, aka Param Singh, Haresh Patel, Harshkumar Singh Patel, hails from Indrad village in Mehsana. Investigations by the US officials showed that he entered the US on July 21, 2016, following a visa refusal in Ottawa, Canada, possibly re-entering around 2018. He applied for immigration status in February 2021 via United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

After each transaction, Patel provided Shand with cash payments ranging from $3,000 to $8,000 (approximately 225,000 to 600,000). In total, Shand collected $25,000 (approximately 1,875,000) in smuggling proceeds from Patel.

In a related investigation by in 2018 by Homeland Security Investigations in Baine, Washington, it was revealed that a human smuggling organization based in Gujarat was responsible for smuggling Indian nationals into the United States, according to the court documents.

Rajinder Singh, also known as Jaspal Gill, was suspected to be the main facilitator in the United States for the group. Singh described to the US officials the smuggling operations as originating in India, with travel coordinators routing Indian nationals through British Columbia, Canada, and into the United States. One of the individuals identified by Singh in Canada was Fenilkumar Patel, who arranged the trip for the family that tragically died in Manitoba, Canada, on January 19, 2022.

US police investigations showed that the Indian nationals smuggled by the Gujarat human smuggling group, work in a chain of restaurants in Chicago. The restaurants were identified and are owned by a man from India who has also been identified, as per the court documents.

The Gujarat police in February 2022 informed a US official that Jagdishkumar Patel (father of the family that died on January 19, 2022) was associated with the restaurant owner in Chicago on social media and through financial transactions. The Gujarat police stated they suspected the restaurant owned in Chicago facilitates the smuggling of Indian nationals to work in his restaurants for sub-standard wages and as a way to pay off the debt, as per the court papers.

Patel’s arrest is of particular interest because it comes about two months of a chartered plane with 303 passengers, including many from Gujarat, being grounded in France by immigration authorities after they discovered it was full of passengers trying to make their way to the US illegally. There is nothing to connect Patel to that case, but Indian authorities said after that incident that there was clearly a large-scale and well-organised human trafficking operation at work.

Discover the complete story of India's general elections on our exclusive Elections Product! Access all the content absolutely free on the HT App. Download now!

Get Current Updates on India News, Narendra Modi Live Updates, Arvind Kejriwal News Live, Election 2024 along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, April 15, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On