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Former Nazi Guard Johann Leprich Found Hiding In Secret Compartment Beneath Stairs

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary for Homeland Security Tom Ridge, Acting Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray of the Criminal Division, and U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Collins of the Eastern District of Michigan today announced the arrest of World War II Nazi concentration camp guard Johann Leprich in Clinton Township, Mich. Agents from the DHS Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with assistance from local police officers of Clinton Township and Macomb County, Mich., apprehended Leprich, 77, late last night at his former home on immigration-related charges. The agents found him hiding in a secret compartment beneath the stairs.

The DOJ Office of Special Investigations has asked a federal immigration court in Detroit to deport Leprich for his service as an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

“This arrest makes clear that those who participated in the atrocities of the Holocaust will not escape the determined reach of U.S. law enforcement, regardless of how much time has passed,” said Attorney General Ashcroft. “Nazi collaborators will not find a safe haven in the United States.”

“This is another example of the results that can be achieved when federal and local law enforcement authorities work together and combine their resources,” noted Secretary Tom Ridge.

Leprich immigrated to the United States in 1952 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1958. In a 1987 decision revoking Leprich’s U.S. citizenship, federal district court Judge Barbara Hackett found that Leprich had served as an armed SS Death’s Head guard at Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Nazi-occupied Austria from late 1943 to at least April 1944. The district court also found that inmates at Mauthausen were used as slave laborers in a quarry located at the camp, and that many inmates were starved, beaten, tortured and killed by a variety of methods, including gassing, hanging, electrocution, drowning, burning, starving and shooting.

After Leprich’s citizenship was revoked, his attorney told federal authorities that Leprich had left the United States. In 1997, various media sources reported that Leprich had been seen in the Windsor, Ontario area of Canada and was believed to be living in Canada. Yesterday’s arrest was the culmination of a recent investigation conducted by ICE, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit, and the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations based on indications that Leprich was either living in or visiting Michigan.

“We intend to remove Leprich from the U.S. with all deliberate speed,” Eli Rosenbaum, director of the Office of Special Investigation.

“Locating and arresting Mr. Leprich required extensive investigation,” said U.S. Attorney Collins. “This demonstrated an outstanding cooperative effort between agents of ICE, the FBI and the Postal Inspection Service.”

A charging document filed today in U.S. Immigration Court in Detroit by OSI and the Department of Homeland Security states that Leprich should be deported based on his service as an armed SS guard at Mauthausen. The charging document also alleges that Leprich is subject to deportation because he failed to comply with a statute requiring that aliens residing in the United States report their address to federal authorities.

The Leprich case is a result of OSI’s ongoing efforts to identify and prosecute those who assisted in Nazi persecution residing in this country. To date, 71 Nazi persecutors have been stripped of U.S. citizenship and 57 have been removed from the United States since OSI began operations in 1979.