Cuban National, Convicted Felon, Found in Possession of AR-15, Five Separate Arrests in Hernando County
HERNANDO – Earlier this month, RNRF published an article that cited a November 16th, Center for Immigration Studies’ determination that Hernando County was at risk of losing federal law enforcement funding. The article infuriated Sheriff Al Nienhuis who blasted RNRF on the agencies Facebook Page, calling us “Fake News.” Nienhuis also attacked the quasi-government organization for erroneously reporting Hernando County as a “Sanctuary City” and requested that they remove the designation from their website. But what led to the organization’s decision to begin with? (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)
In an attempt to put the accusations to rest, RNRF requested information on all undocumented or illegal aliens who are arrested and booked into the Hernando County Jail. Surprisingly, the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t keep specific inmate immigration records in an easily accessible database. A spokesperson tells RNRF that even if we requested a keyword search of their database, we would receive a response that is “. . . probably too large to even begin to check for redactions without a substantial deposit.” So, basically there is absolutely no practical way for the community to track undocumented or illegal aliens through the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
By chance, a viewer brought to our attention the arrest of 31-year-old Leandro Escalona, a Cuban National who has been arrested at least 5-times in Hernando County since 2011. Escalona’s past charges include possession of marijuana with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver, multiple DUI’s, felony violation of probation, several driving on a suspended license, and on December 17th Escalona was arrested for being in possession of a firearm, fleeing to elude, DUI, and being a habitual offender. During a search of Escalona’s vehicle, deputies discovered a fully loaded AR-15 with additional ammunition nearby.
RNRF inquired about Escalona’s charges and asked if ICE had been contacted to investigate the suspect’s immigration status. HCSO Spokesperson Michael Terry replied, “The Inmate was arrested on 12/17/18 on the below charges and bonded by Big Deal Bail bonds – however, while awaiting actual release, ICE was notified due to him being born in Cuba. As a result, ICE placed a hold/warrant and as such, the Bail Bond was revoked by the Bondsman on 12/18/17. He never actually left the building due to the ICE hold/warrant. ICE will come and get this Inmate once he is finished with his charges or until a bond is placed.”
A review of past court cases on the Hernando County Clerk’s Website makes no mention of immigration issues during the prosecution of his numerous charges.
We asked the Sheriff’s Office if they contacted ICE after Escalona’s prior arrests and if they could provide documentation on those requests, but we have yet to receive a response.
We spoke with Tom Bird of the Department of Homeland Security, but due to the holidays and decreased resources, he was unable to review the case at this time.
It should be noted that 22 Cuban Nationals were arrested last year, during a multi-agency investigation into a Cuban drug trafficking organization called “Hydro Hustlers.” Three suspects were arrested in Hernando County. (CLICK HERE FOR FULL STORY)
The Center of Immigration Studies has since removed Hernando County from their list of jurisdiction at risk of losing federal funding.
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