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January 14, 2021Los Angeles, CAUnited StatesEnforcement and Removal

ICE apprehends ‘Most Wanted’ fugitive in Southern California

Criminal alien previously escaped custody, convicted of battery, burglary and identity theft

LOS ANGELES — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) officers, in conjunction with the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), arrested one of ICE’s Most Wanted fugitives in a targeted enforcement action in Anaheim, California, Wednesday.

“After more than two years of evasion, this convicted felon and fugitive criminal alien has been apprehended thanks to the diligent efforts of our officers and their coordinated efforts with the USMS,” said ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Los Angeles Field Office Director John Cantú. “Our officers have taken an oath to enforce and uphold the immigration laws enacted by Congress, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to promote public safety and national security with honor and professionalism.”

Emrah Gocekli, aka Vandoff Shawn Thomas, 33, is a citizen of Turkey who became the subject of a criminal arrest warrant, issued by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, following his 2018 violation for escaping from federal immigration custody.

Gocekli entered the United States at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Dec. 31, 2011, as a non-immigrant student with authorization to remain in the country for the duration of his status as a student. On June 3, 2015, the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, convicted him of battery and sentenced him to serve time in jail with probation. Later, on Oct. 4, 2017, he was also convicted and sentenced for identity theft.

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) arrested Gocekli for additional burglary and identity theft charges Aug. 29, 2018; ICE lodged an immigration detainer the same day based on probable cause that he was at that time removable from the U.S. On Sept. 5, 2018, Gocekli was convicted of burglary and identity theft. He was arrested by ICE’s ERO Los Angeles following his release from LASD custody and served with a notice to appear before an immigration judge.

ICE placed Gocekli into custody at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield, California, while his removal proceedings were pending; however, he escaped from custody Dec. 14, 2018, by scaling and maneuvering past multiple facility barriers during a scheduled recreation time, and had since remained at-large.

Gocekli was remanded into USMS custody, where he will remain pending the outcome of his federal criminal case and will be placed into removal proceedings following adjudication and possible sentencing of his criminal matters.

ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All individuals in violation of U.S. immigration laws may be subject to arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.

Aliens 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 (DOJ), and is separate from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE. Immigration judges in these courts make decisions based on the merits of each individual case. ICE officers carry out the removal decisions made by the federal immigration judges.

The immigration laws of the United States allow aliens to pursue relief from removal; however, once they have exhausted all due process and appeals, they remain subject to a final order of removal from an immigration judge and that order must be carried out.

Updated: 01/19/2021