U.S.Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have accused a North Carolina sheriff of ignoring an ICE detainer in the case of an illegal immigrant who was accused of rape two months after he was released on bond.

Agency officials said, “By releasing a previously deported alien facing serious criminal charges, Mecklenburg County chose to release a serious public safety threat onto the streets of Charlotte where he was free to potentially harm others for nearly two months until his capture by ICE.”

On June 14, Charlotte police arrested Oscar Pacheco-Leonardo on rape and indecent liberties with a minor charge. Online records showed that Pacheco-Leonardo was accused of having sex with a child under the age of 13. He was due back to court in October.

ICE said it issued a detainer the next day, but it was not honored and the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office released the 33-year-old Honduran national on June 16.

After Pacheco-Leonardo was deported in 2006, he re-entered the United States illegally, the immigration enforcement agency said.

These serious criminal charges pose a clear threat to public safety—this arrest is simply the latest in a continuing list of unlawfully present foreign nationals released from custody over the past nine months, ICE said.

The 48-hour detainer could have given the agency time to take custody of Pacheco-Leonardo to deport him, ICE added.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden defended himself Friday, Aug. 16, at a news conference in which he took no questions, Fox 46 Charlotte reported.

After Pacheco-Leonardo put up $100,000 in bond set by a Mecklenburg judge in the rape case, he was released, McFadden said.

ICE could have sought a criminal arrest warrant for Pacheco-Leonardo for illegal re-entry but did not, the sheriff revealed.

After he was elected sheriff last fall, he stopped honoring ICE detainers.

He said, “The reasons for that decision have yet to be satisfactorily explained to me or to the public.”

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