AP NewsBreak: Man wanted in Czech Republic found in Nebraska prison as a guard

By Nate Jenkins, AP
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Man wanted in Europe found working at Neb. prison

LINCOLN, Neb. — A simple Google search of Michal Preclik’s name turns up an Interpol wanted poster from his native Czech Republic. So where was he arrested? In Nebraska’s maximum-security prison, where he was not an inmate, but a guard.

Preclik had worked at the prison for a year and his arrest came just two months after officials at Tecumseh State Correctional Institution promoted the 32-year-old to corporal. Prison officials learned last month that he was wanted on suspicion of drug and fraud crimes.

The electronic wanted poster, which shows his mug shot, went up on Interpol’s Web site exactly a year before his arrest. The poster is the first Web link that appears when Googling Preclik’s name.

“This is just unbelievable that the state of Nebraska is hiring international criminals,” said state Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha. “Who’s minding the store?”

The Department of Correctional Services is reviewing its hiring practices, spokeswoman Dawn Renee Smith said.

“Obviously, it’s a concern whenever we have anyone working at the facility … who has any type of outstanding warrants,” Smith said.

The situation is reminiscent of a 2005 incident that led to a Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services policy that Google searches of job candidates be conducted. The department offered a job to Wayne Richard McGuire, but rescinded the offer after The Associated Press reported that he had been convicted in absentia in Rwanda of the 1985 murder of Dian Fossey, whose research was the subject of the movie “Gorillas in the Mist.”

Preclik (pronounced PRESS’-lik) wound up in Nebraska in 2002 when he got a job at a hog farm through a company that recruited Eastern Europeans as laborers in violation of their tourist visas. The hog farm is about 30 miles from the Tecumseh prison.

Preclik later testified against Milan Matousek, who was convicted of transporting and harboring illegal immigrants while helping the company. Preclik was granted legal residency in return for his help in the prosecution, said his wife, Kari Preclik, an American he married in 2005.

She said the drug and fraud accusations stem from another prosecution he assisted with in the Czech Republic. He had become ensnared with organized crime while buying and selling cars and was kidnapped, she said. While testifying in that case, he was accused of giving members of the group drugs, she said.

But she had no idea of an outstanding warrant.

“We did not find out he was wanted until he was picked up,” Kari Preclik said.

Interpol, which fosters police cooperation across the borders of 188 countries, and the U.S. Marshals service didn’t release any information about the accusations against Michal Preclik.

“I was shocked when I found out,” said Patrick Barker, an officer at the prison who worked with Preclik. “Here we have a guy facing drug and fraud charges and we’re dealing with contraband issues at the prison.”

Smith said she wasn’t aware of any internal investigations because of Preclik’s situation.

The Corrections Department did a background check on Preclik before hiring him, like it does on all potential hires, she said. But a national database that includes criminal records and warrants, the National Criminal Information Center, did not reveal any warrants for his arrest, Smith said.

The initial check of NCIC, which is overseen by the FBI, was done on Sept. 7, 2008, a day before the international police group listed Preclik as wanted on its Web site, according to Smith.

However, a second background check was done Oct. 21, 2008, a week after Preclik started working at the prison and more than a month after Interpol listed him as wanted.

“No warrant showed up at that time either,” Smith said.

There is often a lag between the time Interpol lists someone as wanted and when an arrest warrant is issued in the country where the person is residing.

Preclik was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Sept. 8 and has a Nov. 9 hearing to determine if he can be released on bond. He has asked that the decision to send him back to the Czech Republic be reviewed.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Tim Counts declined to speak about Preclik’s former or current immigration status other than to say he has been charged with violating U.S. immigration laws.

On the Net:

Nebraska Department Correctional Services: www.corrections.state.ne.us/

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