Section: NWS; Page: 3A
DETROIT - A former Clinton Township man who was supposed to be deported 10 years ago for lying about his Nazi past may not be far from his Macomb County home.
Canadian police are searching for Johann Leprich, 71, who they say may have illegally entered their country. Private investigators from Michigan and New York, tracking down former Nazi war criminals living in Canada for the Canadian Jewish Congress, say Leprich was recently seen in the Windsor area.
And a current Michigan driver's license issued to a John Leprich lists Johann Leprich's date of birth and the same Capper Street address where he lived when a federal judge revoked his citizenship in 1987, Secretary of State records show.
John Leprich renewed the license by mail in 1989 and in person in 1993 at a Secretary of State office in Marine City. It is not illegal for an illegal immigrant to be issued a license in Michigan.
"There's no way that this guy should be able to cross the border and renew a driver's license," said private investigator Steven Rambam, who has joined in the hunt for Leprich.
Leprich has admitted he was a Nazi guard at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where tens of thousands of prisoners were killed in World War II. A U.S. immigration official said border guards have been alerted to look out for Leprich.
Leprich's case has riled Canadian Jews, who say their country has become a refuge for hundreds of Nazi war criminals. On Sunday -- the Holocaust remembrance day -- the Canadian Jewish Congress will kick off in Windsor a monthlong series of nationwide rallies to protest what it says is the Canadian government's lax pursuit of former Nazis.
Leprich's wife, who lives at the Capper Street address listed on the driver's license, said she doesn't know where her husband is. "I don't have a husband since 10 years," Maria Leprich said Thursday, declining further comment. But a Dearborn private investigator, Bob Kowalkowski, said she admitted to him and Rambam last month that her husband was in Canada.
Born in Romania, Johann Leprich was stripped of his American citizenship by U.S. District Judge Barbara Hackett in 1987. Leprich fled to Canada in July 1987 while authorities were trying to deport him, said Karen Kraushaar, spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
"We were ready to deport him. He took off running for Canada," Kraushaar said.
John Russell, spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department, which sought to revoke Leprich's citizenship, declined to say whether Justice officials are looking for him.
A member of the SS Death's Head Battalion, Leprich was captured by the U.S. Army in June 1945. He entered the United States in 1952 after he claimed to be a soldier in the Hungarian army, federal court documents show. He became a U.S. citizen in 1958. Decades later, Leprich admitted in a deposition that the information was false.
Bernie Farber, director of community relations for the Canadian Jewish Congress, said the Jewish community is upset that Canadian police haven't been able to find Leprich. Canada has deported just one former Nazi since the end of World War II, while the United States has deported more than 50 since 1980.
Inspector Jean Dube of the Canadian police war crimes unit insisted they're doing all they can to find Leprich, who could be prosecuted for illegally entering Canada and for war crimes. Mounted Police Sgt. Robert Goguen said authorities have received several tips within the past month that Leprich is in Windsor or another part of Canada.
The Canadian Jewish Congress -- a nonprofit group that represents about 385,000 people -- has been working with private detectives to find former Nazis who have illegally moved to Canada.
"We believe he is going back and forth at his leisure from the Windsor area to Michigan," Farber said Thursday. "It looks like he flaunts the law on both sides of the border. This guy has fallen through the cracks."
A segment on Leprich is scheduled to appear tonight at 9 on "America's Most Wanted" on WJBK-TV (Channel 2).
"Hopefully, that's going to generate some interest and some leads . . . and we'll be able to scoop him up," Dube said.
Leprich is at least the third Macomb County resident to lose his U.S. citizenship for lying about his past as a Nazi concentration camp guard. Peter Quintus of Shelby Township lost his in 1988, but was allowed to stay in the United States because of poor health. Ferdinand Hammer of Sterling Heights is appealing a judge's decision last month that he be deported.
"The common perception of Nazi war criminals is that these guys are hiding overseas, they're in Paraguay, they've changed their names," Rambam said. "Not true. The vast majority of the hands-on perpetrators of the Holocaust came to the free West -- Canada, the U.S., England, Australia.
"The hands-on perpetrators of the Holocaust are living here undisturbed."
|(Seven years after Pallorium's Investigators revealed that Leprich was living in Michigan he was captured by U.S. federal agents ... at his residence.)|
WASHINGTON - A Nazi concentration camp guard who fled efforts by the United States to deport him in the mid-1980s, and who was hiding out in his former home in a Detroit suburb, has been arrested by federal agents, federal authorities said Wednesday
Johann Leprich, 77, was arrested late Tuesday night in Clinton Township, Mich., on immigration-related charges by agents of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The agents found him hiding in a secret compartment beneath the stairs, authorities said.
Leprich was a Nazi guard at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where more than 100,000 prisoners died, many used as slave laborers and worked to death at a neighboring stone quarry.
A native of Romania, he entered the United States in 1952, claiming that he had been a soldier in the Hungarian army during the war. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1958.
He was stripped of his American citizenship in 1987 for concealing his Nazi past. A U.S. District Court judge determined that he had spent the war as a member of the Death's Head Battalion, a unit of the SS, and had served as an armed guard at Mauthausen in 1943 and 1944. But Leprich fled the United States before he could be deported.
His case attracted renewed interest after the television show "America's Most Wanted" reported in 1997 that Leprich had been traveling freely between the United States and Canada, at one point renewing his Michigan driver's license in person.
"For 10 years after his deportation, he lived openly," said Steven Rambam, a New York private investigator who was a consultant to the show. He said Leprich had even received Social Security benefits for a number of years.
"This is not a triumph of investigative work," Rambam said of the arrest. "But I must say it is poetic justice. Think of all the Jews who had to spend all of World War II hiding in secret compartments."
On Wednesday, the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, which pursues cases involving Nazi officials, asked a federal immigration court in Detroit to remove Leprich "with all deliberate speed," Eli Rosenbaum, the unit's director, said in a prepared statement.
"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," Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft said in a statement. "Nazi collaborators will not find a safe haven in the United States."
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge called the case "another example of the results that can be achieved when federal and local law enforcement authorities work together and combine their resources."
In addition to immigration authorities, agents from the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and local police were involved in the arrest, authorities said.
Leprich had been married, and his wife had at one time shared the Michigan address where he was arrested. A telephone message left at the residence Wednesday was not returned.
Since the Justice Department's special investigations unit
began operations in 1979, 71 onetime Nazis have been stripped
of their U.S. citizenship and 57 deported.
(Original article located at: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-guard3jul03,1,6260751.story?coll=la-headlines-nation.)