Johann Leprich, 77, was arrested Tuesday night after he was found hiding in a secret compartment beneath the stairs of his home in Clinton Township, about 25 miles north of Detroit, according to the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Leprich had been a fugitive since 1987, after his U.S. citizenship was revoked because officials found he had misrepresented his military service on his application for naturalization. He came to the United States in 1952 and was granted citizenship in 1958.
Leprich served during the war in the Nazi Death's Head Battalion and worked as a guard at the Mauthausen concentration camp, said immigration bureau spokesman Greg Palmore. Mauthausen alone is said to be responsible for the deaths of nearly 200,000 people, he said.
Leprich's application for U.S. citizenship said he served in the Hungarian Army during the war, but did not mention the concentration camp. After officials learned he had worked as a guard there, Leprich admitted lying on the application, The Macomb Daily of Mount Clemens reported.
The newspaper cited a 1987 deposition in which Leprich wrote: "I swear from the bottom of my heart and the grave of my parents and mother that I did not volunteer to the Waffen SS. I was forced. In all my life, I never hurt, mistreated or killed any human being."
A federal law forbids granting U.S. citizenship to any concentration camp guard or worker.
Leprich, who had worked in a machine shop in Fraser, fled to Canada in 1987 before deportation proceedings were complete.
Leprich appeared Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit on charges related to the alleged false statements on his citizenship application.
Palmore would not say Wednesday where Leprich was being held. He said the man had an attorney, but did not know the lawyer's name.
Leprich will go before an immigration judge after a bond hearing, which is expected to be held within the next 10 days.
"He may still be put in front of an international tribunal," Palmore said.
Attempts to reach relatives of Leprich by calling all phone numbers listed under that surname in Macomb County were unsuccessful.
Leprich, who lived in Clinton Township with his wife, Maria, was a quiet man who took care of his home, neighbors told The Macomb Daily.
"John is just the nicest guy in the world," said Clarence Sonntag, who lives across the street from the Lepriches. "Personally, I think (federal officials) ought to just let this situation alone because it's been so many years, but we do have our laws and the laws have to be obeyed."