CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry L. McFadden and North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore responded after the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the arrest of an Honduran fugitive who they say was released by Mecklenburg County despite rape and child sex offense charges.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a press release said that they arrested 33-year-old Oscar Pacheco-Leonardo, a Honduran national, during a targeted enforcement operation in Mecklenburg County on August 9.
ICE officials say the arrest came nearly two months after the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office refused to honor an ICE detainer, or even notify ICE of the release, and instead released Pacheco-Leonardo following his arrest on first-degree rape and indecent liberties with a minor charges.
Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry L McFadden responded to this announcement Friday afternoon.
“Upon fulfilling his court ordered terms and conditions of release, including the payment of a $100,000 bond, Pacheco-Leonardo was released from Detention Center Central on June 16th as required by law. Setting bond amounts and conditions of release are the responsibility of Mecklenburg County, Judges and Magistrates,” Sheriff McFadden said.
ICE officials say Pacheco-Leonardo was previously removed from the U.S. to Honduras in July 2006, and he subsequently illegally reentered the U.S. after deportation, which is a felony act under federal law. After the resolution of any potential federal criminal charges, ICE officials say he is subject to removal again to Honduras.
ICE officials say they issued a detainer June 15, but the detainer was not honored, and Pacheco was instead released from Mecklenburg County custody June 16. ICE’s Charlotte Fugitive Operations Team (FUGOPS) located and arrested the man without incident August 9 and he remains in ICE custody.
Sheriff McFadden said that at the time of Pacheco-Leonardo’s arrest, the sheriff’s office had no knowledge that he was previously deported in July 2006. However, he says, that information was available to ICE.
“ICE chose to issue voluntary ICE administrative detainers on Pacheco-Leonardo, knowing that it is against MCSO’s policy to honor such detainers. Based upon Pacheco-Leonardo’s previous deportation, ICE could have but did NOT seek a criminal arrest warrant for Illegal Re-Entry. The reasons for that decision have yet to be satisfactorily explained to me or to the public,” Sheriff McFadden said.
The sheriff says as of Friday, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office still does not have any information regarding current federal charges against Pacheco-Leonardo or his current location.
Sheriff McFadden released a full statement in response to ICE’s announcement Friday afternoon.
"This is yet another example of a clear public safety threat being released onto the streets of Mecklenburg County rather than into ICE custody due to the current sheriff’s policy on ICE non-cooperation,” said ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Atlanta Field Office Director Sean Gallagher. “The Mecklenburg County sheriff’s decision to restrict cooperation with ICE serves as an open invitation to aliens who commit criminal offenses that Mecklenburg County is a safe haven for persons seeking to evade federal authorities, and residents of Mecklenburg County are less safe today than last year due these policies.”
Speaker Moore tweeted Friday that the North Carolina House of Representatives will vote on House Bill 370, a bill that would require local sheriffs to cooperate with ICE, as early as next week.
“The North Carolina House will vote on H.B. 370 Require Sheriff Cooperation with ICE Detainers - a bill supported by the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association - as early as next week to end this outrageous refusal to protect the public from wanted criminals,” Speaker Moore tweeted.
In an interview with WBTV Friday afternoon, Speaker Moore spoke specifically about this incident and Pacheco-Leonardo’s arrest.
“Why are we turning a rapist loose on the street anyway?" Speaker Moore said. "That means no sense, and that’s why we’re going to fight very hard to get passage of this bill. We believe it will pass and we hope the governor will sign it,”
Speaker Moore spoke on House Bill 370 and the issue of sheriffs in the state not cooperating with ICE.
“We pass laws for the good of the state and to me, it seems common sense that a law enforcement officer who has take into custody a violent criminal who also happens to be in this country illegally, should turn that criminal over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials," Speaker Moore said. "We shouldn’t even be having to pass this law, but because we have some sheriffs that simply are doing this, we’re going do it because we’re going to make sure that North Carolinians are protected.”