FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
IMMIGRATION JUDGE ORDERS DEPORTATION OF DETROIT-AREA
NAZI COLLABORATOR FOUND HIDING UNDER STAIRCASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today that an immigration judge in Detroit, Michigan, has ordered the deportation of Johann Leprich, 77, a Clinton Township, Michigan man who served as an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Leprich was arrested on immigration-related charges this past July at his former home in Clinton Township, Michigan, after federal agents found him hiding in a secret compartment beneath the basement staircase.
Christopher A. Wray, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, stated, “Federal agents relentlessly pursued Leprich after he disappeared 16 years ago, and the court’s decision validates the enormous effort that was made by agents of the FBI, DHS and other agencies to track him down.”
Leprich, who was born in Romania, immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1952 and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1958. In 1987, his U.S. citizenship was revoked by the United States District Court in Detroit after a federal judge found that Leprich had assisted in Nazi persecution while serving as an armed SS Death’s Head guard at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Nazi-annexed Austria from late 1943 until at least April 1944. The court emphasized that inmates at Mauthausen were starved, beaten, tortured, and killed by a variety of methods, including gassing,
hanging, strangling, electrocution, drowning, burning, starving, and shooting. The federal court also found that Leprich lied about his wartime activities when he applied for a U.S. immigration visa.
At a hearing in immigration court earlier this month, Leprich testified that he left the United States in 1987 to avoid being deported, and that he lived in Canada for sixteen years until he returned to the United States in April 2003. He admitted that he knew he was no longer permitted to live in the United States, and that he was taking “a chance” when he returned to this country. The government commenced deportation proceedings against Leprich after he was arrested on July 1, 2003, following an investigation conducted by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit, and the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI).
Leprich claimed that the 1987 denaturalization decision was not final and that he continues to be a U.S. citizen. In his decision, Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Larry Dean rejected that claim, noting, “It would be difficult to imagine a more final order regarding the revocation of Mr. Leprich’s citizenship.” The judge concluded that Leprich entered this country illegally and ordered that he be removed to Romania, Germany, or Hungary.
“The government proved sixteen years ago that Leprich and his fellow guards at the infamous Mauthausen Concentration Camp took part in the persecution of the many thousands of innocent civilians interned there,” said OSI Director Eli M. Rosenbaum. “Our goal now is to remove Leprich from this country as quickly as possible, and today’s decision is an important step toward that goal.”
The proceedings to remove Leprich are 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. Seventy-three individuals who assisted in Nazi persecution have been stripped of U.S. citizenship, and fifty-nine such persons have been removed from the United States since OSI began operations in 1979. More than 160 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.