By Mike Levine, ,
Published May 16, 2015
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrested an international fugitive they may have inadvertantly let into the United States a month earlier.
The fugitive may have come into the country in April after promising immigration officials he would show up for a closer screening a few weeks later. He never showed, sending federal authorities on a manhunt, according to court documents obtained by FOX News.
They ultimately located him in Laredo, Texas, and arrested him on May 17.
Earlier this month, a federal judge issued an arrest warrant for the man, who flew into New York's J.F.K. International Airport in early April.
According to the court documents, immigration officers fingerprinted him during the "arrival process," which "resulted in a possible match" to a man named Frank Dwomoh, who is on the run from Interpol, the international police force.
Dwomoh was placed on Interpol's "Wanted Person Lookout" list for crimes in Italy dating back to 1999, including alleged rape, armed robbery and illegal possession of a weapon.
But, court documents said, "due to limited information about the Interpol Lookout at that time, [the man at J.F.K. International Airport] was granted a deferred inspection into the United States."
A "deferred inspection" is an honor system of sorts that allows travelers into the United States when their immigration status cannot be immediately determined at an airport, border crossing or other point of entry. As part of an "understanding," according to court documents, the travelers are ordered to report to an immigration office sometime later with the necessary documentation.
In the case last month, the man, originally from Ghana, was ordered by Customs and Border Protection officers to appear two weeks ago at Washington Dulles International Airport, outside the nation's capital. Travelers granted deferred inspection are often told to appear at a site near their final destination.
"To date, [the man] has not appeared for further inspection at any port of entry in the United States," said court documents filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, home to Dulles International Airport. "In addition, both [he] and his attorney have failed to answer their provided telephone numbers and return any of the messages left by [officers]."
FOX News has decided not to reveal the man's name over concerns from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that it could impact the investigation. He has been charged with eluding examination and inspection by immigration officers.
An official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement said authorities were trying to determine whether he was, in fact, Dwomoh when he was missing. Nevertheless, court documents listed his "alias" as "Frank Dwomoh," and the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration operations, says online that fingerprints "are unique and virtually impossible to forge."
Deferred inspections are nothing new. In fact, the saga of Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy at the center of a controversy in 2000 over federal authority and immigration rights, began as a deferred inspection.
Last year immigration officials granted deferred inspections to more than 7,300 travelers. That's far less than 1 percent of the more than 370 million travelers from outside the country that Customs and Border Protection processes each year.
"It's not widely used," said CBP spokesman Michael Friel, adding that deferred inspections are often granted to permanent residents or visa holders who have "minor document problems." It's unclear what documents the man at J.F.K. International Airport had when he arrived last month.
Friel said "it does not happen often" that people granted deferred inspections fail to appear for their follow-up screenings. After all, Friel said, permanent residents and visa holders have an incentive to resolve any issues because "as part of the deferred inspection we keep what documents they have."
A search of U.S. court records in areas with some of the busiest international airports found no recent cases involving a person who failed to appear after a deferred inspection. The last time the Eastern District of Virginia had a similar case was 10 years ago.
The story is the same for border states. The Southern District of Texas, along the U.S.-Mexican border, had no recent cases filed.
But the case of "Frank Dwomoh" is not the first time a person possibly involved in a violent crime was allowed into the United States with a deferred inspection.
In April 2007, a Jamaican man crossing the border in Buffalo, N.Y., was granted a deferred inspection even though "CBP officers had information that [he] was the subject of [an] ongoing murder investigation" in Pennsylvania, according to a press release issued by the Department of Homeland Security.
The man, 33-year-old Floyd Bogle, had a green card, but he was a "person of interest" in the fatal stabbing of his father just days earlier.
"At the request of law enforcement authorities, CBP deferred Mr. Bogle's inspection until enough evidence had been gathered to charge him with the murder of his father," the press release said.
He was charged with murder nearly a year later, and CBP officers arrested him shortly afterward when he showed up for his follow-up inspection in New Jersey, according to the press release, issued in April 2008 to announce the arrest.
Interpol declined to comment about the case.