Despite helping law enforcement agents solve crimes that included a high-profile murder case, NJ police informant Charbel Chehoud faces deportation from the U.S. as early as Wednesday.
Currently being held at the Essex County Jail, Chaoud says federal immigration authorities ignored recommendations by New Jersey police and prosecutors that he be allowed to stay in the United States. Chaoud, who fears for his life if forced to return to Lebanon, has resisted five previous attempts at deportation. In July 2011 his brother was killed in a suspicious auto-pedestrian accident in Beirut.
Leading the last-ditch effort to help him remain on U.S. soil is Chehoud’s fiancée, Veronica Garcia of Jersey City, who launched a campaign on Change.org that has garnered over 6,000 signatures.
According to a recent article in the NY Daily News, the murder of Michael Augulis in 1999 would have gone unsolved if it weren’t for Chehoud’s aid to law enforcement officials. Originally called an accidental drowning in Sandy Hook Bay, Chehoud told police that two men in a fishing boat had thrown Augulis overboard, knowing he couldn't swim. New Jersey State Police later arrested the two men, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
“Police and prosecutors say the tip from Charbel Chehoud, who wasn’t involved in the drowning, was so critical to solving the case, he should be allowed to stay in the United States,” said the article. “Clearly, we would not have solved this crime or even realized there was a crime committed if it had not been for Mr. Chehoud,” then-Monmouth County Prosecutor Luis Valentin wrote to the feds.
In a press release Monday, Garcia stated, “If my fiancée were released from detention, we could continue with his asylum case and our pending marriage. It is saddening to me that someone who is an asset to the community and has helped solve high-profile crimes is being kept away from his family who needs him."
Nonetheless, Harold Ort, a Newark spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Chehoud’s case does not warrant an exception. He noted that Chehoud'd refusal to be deported resulted in a physical altercation with authorities, which in turn led to his detainment at the Essex County Jail.
“Cases involving the deportation of those who ‘obstruct immigration controls’ get priority status,” Ort told the Daily News.