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Indian-American named in freezing deaths of Patel family pleads guilty to smuggling migrants into US

Toronto, Feb 20 (Staff & IANS):  A 49-year-old resident of Elk Grove, California,  who admitted to receiving more than $500,000, for coordinating a human smuggling ring moving migrants into the US via Canada, has pleaded guilty to the charges, according to a US Justice Department release.

Singh was arrested in Washington in May last year.

According to CBC News, during a plea agreement hearing in the US District Court, Western District of Washington at Seattle, Singh pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to transport and harbor certain aliens for profit and conspiracy to commit money laundering”.

His sentencing is scheduled for May 9.

In October last year, The Fifth Estate reported that Singh had become a “person of interest” in the Manitoba RCMP investigation into the tragic freezing death of the Patel family on the Canada-US border in January 2022.

On January 19, 2022, the bodies of three-year-old Dharmik Patel; his 11-year-old sister, Vihangi Patel; their mother, 37-year-old Vaishali Patel; and their father, 39-year-old Jagdish Patel; were found in a snow-covered field east of Emerson, about 100 km south of Winnipeg.

The US investigators had surveillance of Singh discussing possibly moving migrants through Manitoba, according to The Fifth Estate.

“The wiretapped conversations took place in January 2022, around the same time the Patel family was being moved from the Greater Toronto Area to the remote border area south of Winnipeg,” said the report.

“Singh played a key role in the non-citizens smuggling conspiracy” and “prior to the unlawful entry of the non-citizens into the US, he would coordinate with members of the conspiracy who housed the non-citizens in British Columbia,” read the plea agreement.

To help migrants navigate the Canadian border, Singh used the Life360 app, which allows users to share their physical location through their cell phone.

Once they made their way into the US, he would arrange pickups through the Uber ride share app.

Singh charged up to $11,000 per person for his services, according to the report.

The US Homeland Security had been investigating Singh since 2018.

In addition to the search of the home in Lacey, law enforcement searched two of Singh’s residences in California. During the search of one of his homes in Elk Grove, California, investigators found about $45,000 in cash as well as counterfeit identity documents. They also found copies of falsified documents that had been submitted to immigration judges in Washington during bond hearings for non-citizens who had been smuggled into the United States by Singh and his coconspirators, but who had been arrested by immigration authorities after illegally crossing the border.

In 2009, Singh pleaded guilty to bank fraud and illegal re-entry after deportation. He was sentenced to another 27 months in US federal prison, said the report.

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