Thirty-seven years after immigration officials ordered him deported, Ivan Vaclavik has left the United States.
Federal immigration officials said this week that after years of failed attempts, they deported Vaclavik to the Czech Republic in October. The expulsion of the mysterious 66-year-old emigre ends a long and turbulent stay in Massachusetts, where he racked up more than 100 criminal charges, including assaults and a string of messy housing disputes, and had been imprisoned at least three times.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement tried to detain and deport Vaclavik at least three times over the past 13 years. But each time, they set him free when he filed lawsuits arguing that he was stateless.
He said his native Czechoslovakia had vanished along with the Soviet Union. In 1993, his homeland split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
“They already know I cannot be deported,” he wrote in a 2003 lawsuit he filed to get out of immigration jail.
The deportation came months after the Globe described Vaclavik’s long criminal history and outstanding deportation order. After the article was published in January 2013, immigration officials affixed an electronic tracking device to Vaclavik’s ankle. By July, Boston police had charged him with attempting to steal a $39.98 pair of shorts from a store on Boylston Street. Following a hearing in criminal court, federal officials took him out of the country on Oct. 8, said Daniel Modricker, spokesman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Mr. Vaclavik was escorted by ICE officers to the Czech Republic after being issued a passport by the Government of the Czech Republic,” Modricker said in a statement Friday.
Immigration officials did not publicly announce his deportation last year. An agency official said immigration officials generally do not disclose administrative enforcement actions to protect the privacy of immigrants.
Some of Vaclavik’s victims were unaware of his deportation, but in interviews they said they were glad that he was gone.
“It’s nice to know . . . I’ll go home and have a glass of wine tonight,” said Chris Pedersen, owner of Charles Street Liquors, where the staff caught Vaclavik in 2011 trying to steal bottles of champagne. “It should have happened a long time ago.”
One victim who asked not to be identified because she still has a restraining order against Vaclavik for harassing her, said her fear of him dramatically affected her life. She avoided online dating sites, moved to a secure building, and even feared going outside during fire alarms, in case he was waiting, she said.
“I no longer have to walk down the street looking behind me, looking behind corners and cars,” the woman said this week.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that immigrants generally cannot be jailed for more than six months while awaiting deportation. Since they could not deport him, immigration officials said Vaclavik was among thousands of criminals they have released because their homelands refused to take them back. (The State Department could impose sanctions on nations that block or delay deportations, but rarely does.)
Most recently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Vaclavik’s deportation was delayed because the Czech Republic had not given him a travel document, such as a passport, which is required to put him on an airplane. Vaclavik is from Prague in the Czech Republic, but last year officials said they were still verifying whether Vaclavik was a citizen.
On Friday, Blanka Stichova, a consular officer in New York, confirmed that the Czech Republic had issued Vaclavik a travel document so he could be sent home.
Joseph Murray, Vaclavik’s attorney in his most recent criminal case, did not respond to requests for comment.
Much of Vaclavik’s personal story remains a mystery. He came to America as a young man in 1974 while still in his 20’s and said he was an architect, but he never had a license in Massachusetts.
He was supposed to stay in the US for three weeks. Instead, he stayed for decades and faced charges in Boston, Cambridge, Salem, and elsewhere. Much of his record consists of lesser crimes such as shoplifting or trespassing, but he also served time in jail, including nine months for assault and battery with a motor vehicle in 1996.
He was convicted of assaulting a stranger in a Boston Starbucks in 2005, breaking into the Charles Hotel in 2007, and accosting an 11-year-old girl near a hotel pool in Waltham in 2009.
He often rented cheap rooms in houses where he clashed frequently with his neighbors. It is unclear how he paid the rent or paid for an Audi he drove.
He landed in court for several disputes with landlords and housemates. One woman took out a restraining order against him, alleging he tried to barge into her bedroom wearing only his underwear. Another set of landlords said he threatened to report them to immigration officials.
Former neighbors said he could be charming and persuasive and knew English so well that he often wrote his own legal motions. In court motions, he said he “loved America” and came here after the Soviet invasion of his home country in 1968.
Cases such as Vaclavik’s are often unknown to the public because US immigration officials refuse to identify the immigrants they release or deport, saying it would violate their privacy.
The Globe reported in December 2012 about how the immigration system’s frequent refusals to release basic information about detainees jeopardizes public safety. The immigration system also rarely informed crime victims when they deported a criminal or released them in the United States.
It is unclear if immigration officials notified any of Vaclavik’s victims that he was deported.
The woman who took out a restraining order against him said officials did not tell her he was gone. But, she said, she hadn’t kept in touch with immigration officials.
“I never thought he was going to be deported,” she said. “I know they’ve tried so many times.”
Immigration officials say they do notify eligible victims and witnesses, who must register for the agency’s victim notification program, when an offender is released in the United States or deported. Information about the program is now online in English and Spanish, at www.ice.gov/victim-notification.