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October 31, 2023New York, NY, United StatesEnforcement and Removal

ERO New York City arrests unlawfully present noncitizen, convicted rapist

NEW YORK — On Oct. 27, Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) New York City arrested Neftali Caal-Chocoj, a 50-year-old citizen of Guatemala, who was convicted of rape in the second degree: sexual intercourse with another person who is incapable of consent by reason of being mentally disabled.

The unlawfully present noncitizen was convicted of the Class D felony and sentenced to time served — six months — and 10 years of probation on Oct. 25.

ERO New York City’s Newburgh suboffice lodged a detainer against Caal-Chocoj’s after he was initially arrested on those same criminal charges on Sept. 14, 2022. However, due to local laws, ERO officers were precluded from assuming custody of Caal-Chocoj safely within the secure perimeter of the Putnam County Jail. Instead, jail officials released the convicted felon directly to the street. 

“This individual sadistically preyed upon a vulnerable person for his own gratification and then tried to flee when confronted by the local police,” said ERO New York City Field Office Director Kenneth Genalo. “The community is much safer now that he is back in a custodial setting, pending his removal from the United States. Our officers should be commended for their dedication to quickly and safely apprehending this predator so he cannot further harm anyone in the NYC metropolitan area.”

Caal-Chocoj entered the United States at an unknown place on an unknown date without being admitted or paroled by an immigration official. On Oct. 27, Fugitive Operations officers arrested him without incident in the town of Carmel Hamlet. He was served a notice to appear and will remain in custody pending removal proceedings.

As part of its mission to identify and arrest removable noncitizens, ERO lodges immigration detainers against noncitizens who have been arrested for criminal activity and taken into custody by state or local law enforcement. An immigration detainer is a request from ICE to state or local law enforcement agencies to notify ICE as early as possible before a removable noncitizen is released from their custody. Detainers are a critical public safety tool because they increase the safety of all parties involved — ERO personnel, law enforcement officials, the removable noncitizens and the public — by allowing an arrest to be made in a secure and controlled custodial setting as opposed to at-large within the community. Since detainers result in the direct transfer of a noncitizen from state or local custody to ERO custody, they also minimize the potential that an individual will reoffend. Additionally, detainers conserve scarce government resources by allowing ERO to take criminal noncitizens into custody directly rather than expending resources locating these individuals at-large.

Noncitizens placed into removal proceedings receive their legal due process from federal immigration judges in the immigration courts, which are administered by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). EOIR is an agency within the U.S. Department of Justice and is separate from the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE). Immigration judges in these courts make decisions based on the merits of each individual case. ERO officers carry out the removal decisions made by the federal immigration judges.

As one of ICE’s operational directorates, ERO is the principal federal law enforcement authority in charge of domestic immigration enforcement. ERO’s mission is to protect the homeland through the arrest and removal of those who undermine the safety of U.S. communities and the integrity of U.S. immigration laws, and its primary areas of focus are interior enforcement operations, management of the agency’s detained and non-detained populations, and repatriation of noncitizens who have received final orders of removal. ERO’s workforce consists of more than 7,700 law enforcement and non-law enforcement support personnel across 25 domestic field offices and 208 locations nationwide, 30 overseas postings, and multiple temporary duty travel assignments along the border.

Members of the public can report crimes and suspicious activity by dialing 866-347-2423 or completing ICE’s online tip form.

Learn more about ERO New York City’s mission to preserve public safety on X, formerly known as Twitter, @ERONewYork.