FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
FRIDAY, MARCH 12, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
COURT UPHOLDS DEPORTATION OF DETROIT-AREA
NAZI COLLABORATOR FOUND HIDING UNDER STAIRCASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Christopher A. Wray, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division, announced today that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has affirmed an order directing the deportation to Germany of Johann Leprich, 78, a Detroit-area man who served as an armed guard at the notorious Mauthausen concentration camp during World War II.
The BIA upheld a November 2003 decision by an immigration judge in Detroit, who concluded that Leprich had entered the United States illegally from Canada in April 2003. Leprich has admitted that he fled from the United States to Canada in 1987 shortly before a U.S. district court revoked his U.S. citizenship on grounds relating to his service to Nazi Germany.
The deportation case was brought by the Criminal Division’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Leprich was arrested on immigration charges last July after agents from DHS, the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies found him hiding in a secret compartment under the basement staircase of his former home in Clinton Township.
“As an SS concentration camp guard, Leprich participated in the Nazi regime’s infamous program of persecution,” said Assistant Attorney General Christopher A. Wray. “He cannot and will not be allowed to remain in this country.”
Leprich, an ethnic German born in Romania, immigrated to the U.S. from Germany and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1958. OSI brought a denaturalization case against him in 1986, and his citizenship was revoked by a U.S. district court in 1987. The district court found that Leprich served during 1943 and 1944 as an armed SS Death’s Head guard at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Nazi-annexed Austria, where inmates were beaten, tortured, and killed by a variety of methods, including gassing, hanging, starvation, strangulation, and shooting.
“Leprich’s presence in this country is an affront to the survivors of Mauthausen and other Nazi camps, and to all Americans,” said OSI Director Eli M. Rosenbaum. “The BIA’s decision brings us one big step closer to effecting Leprich’s deportation.”
Leprich remains in government custody. In December 2003, U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh rejected Leprich’s attempt to overturn the 1987 denaturalization order and denied his request for release from custody. In doing so, Judge Steeh noted that the sixteen-year delay in the case was due to Leprich’s “purposeful flight from this court’s authority.”
The deportation case was litigated by OSI Senior Trial Attorneys Stephen Paskey and William H. Kenety, with assistance from the DHS Chief Counsel’s Office in Detroit.
The deportation order against Leprich is a result of OSI's ongoing efforts to identify, investigate and take legal action against former participants in Nazi persecution who reside in the United States. Since OSI began operations in 1979, it has won cases against 93 individuals who assisted in Nazi persecution. In addition, 170 individuals who sought to enter the United States in recent years have been blocked from doing so as a result of OSI's “Watch List” program, which is enforced in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security.