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Sex Charges Cause Cuba To Deport Fugitive

Cuba on Friday turned over to U.S. authorities an American fugitive sought on charges of sexual abuse of a minor and possession of child pornography.

Cuban authorities said they arrested Leonard B. Auerbach, a 61-year-old mortgage specialist from Orinda, California, on the island on May 7, acting on information from U.S. officials.

Auerbach is the fourth American fugitive Cuba has deported to the United States since President Raul Castro first took provisional power from his ailing brother Fidel in July 2006.

The U.S. complains there are dozens more U.S. fugitives on the island that Cuba has not deported, including several former Black Panthers accusing of killings and other violent acts in the 1960s and 1970s.

Among the U.S. fugitives Cuba has refused to hand over is former Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur — also known as Joanne Chesimard — convicted in the 1973 killing of a New Jersey state trooper.

U.S. immigration officials in Miami and authorities at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana did not respond to calls regarding Auerbach's deportation. Efforts to locate an attorney representing Auerbach were unsuccessful.

Robert E. Schaberg, a San Francisco attorney who represented Auerbach and several others in an unrelated business lawsuit three years ago, was not in his office Friday and was not expected back until next week. It was unclear if Schaberg was defending Auerbach in the child pornography and sex abuse case.

Cuban authorities say the investigation showed that Auerbach arrived on the island on April 8, and he was deported Friday. Such cooperation is unusual between the U.S. and Cuba, which have no extradition treaty.

Cuba said it decided to deport Auerbach to the U.S. because the crimes he is charged with "are of a grave character and strongly fought by our authorities."

Auerbach was named on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's "most wanted" list for charges he had sex with a girl in Costa Rica, after he failed to appear for arraignment in U.S. federal court in Oakland, California, near his hometown.

The charges against Auerbach stemmed from a U.S. investigation that began almost two years ago.

Search warrants, including one executed at his Orinda residence, showed that Auerbach traveled to Costa Rica approximately 40 times between 2003 and 2007, according to an earlier statement from U.S. immigration authorities.

According to court documents filed in the case, during those searches, agents discovered computers and thumb drives containing images of Auerbach with a female minor, who was born on April 1, 1992, meaning that she recently turned 16. The documents allege that Auerbach traveled to see her beginning when she was 12.

Auerbach is charged with one count of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places and one count of possession of child pornography.

The sex tourism charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for possession of child pornography is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.