inside sources print logo
Get up to date New Hampshire news in your inbox

Hiding in Plain Sight: Mass Murderer Illegal Alien Worked as Roofer in NH

The illegal immigrant convicted of murdering 11 people in the infamous 2015 Curio Massacre in Brazil lived as an average Granite Stater when he was arrested at his roofing job in Rye earlier this month.

“He’s somebody who was definitely in hiding. He didn’t want to be found,” said Rye Police Chief Kevin Walsh.

Federal authorities confirmed to NHJournal that Antonio Jose De Abreu Vidal Filho, 29, was in the country illegally at the time of his arrest. The former military police officer entered the country legally when he fled prosecution in his home country but illegally overstayed his visa, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman said.

“Antonio Jose De Abreu Vidal Filho entered the U.S. lawfully in 2019 but did not depart according to the terms of his admittance. He will remain in ICE custody pending a hearing before a federal immigration judge,” the spokesman said.

Meaning he lived illegally in the U.S. for some eight years, even as Brazil’s government was prosecuting him in absentia for a high-profile crime.

Filho was arrested last week by federal agents who had tracked him from Brazil to New Hampshire. Known as Tony Vidal or Tony Filho, he lived in Merrimack and worked as a roofer. 

At the job site in Rye, no one suspected “Tony” was a convicted killer sentenced to 276 years in prison for the torture and murders he committed as a member of the Brazilian military state police.

“We had no clue. The guy seemed like a nice guy, made chit chat,” Sammy Johnson, a carpenter working on the same house as Filho, told Boston’s 25 News.

The morning of the arrest, Johnson was shocked when a flashbang device exploded, and a large truck sped up to the house carrying armed agents who quickly started barking orders. Within moments, they had Filho in custody, Johnson said. Johnson never suspected the roofer was a wanted criminal.

“You have no clue, no clue in this day and age, and how he got into New Hampshire,” Johnson said.

Walsh insisted that although Rye police proactively patrol the wealthy seaside community for traffic violations and speeding, they never had any contact with Filho during the months he worked construction. If Filho was never stopped, it may have been because he was trying to avoid police attention.

“This is a guy who followed every motor vehicle law. This is a guy who did not want to be found,” Walsh said.

What Fihlo’s employer knew about the killer’s identity is another unknown. Employers are supposed to check immigration status for hires, but Walsh said there are many ways around that requirement in the contracting world. He said that many builders tend to look the other way with the tight labor market.

“If a guy shows up on time and does a full day’s work, a lot of places don’t ask many questions,” Walsh said.

New Hampshire Department of Labor Deputy Commissioner Rudolph Ogden said if Filho were working as a subcontractor, a common practice in the building trades, he would not be considered an employee. In that case, contractors are under no obligation to check the immigration status of subcontractors. Despite the apprehension of an illegal worker just days ago, the Department of Labor is not currently investigating the businesses involved in the construction site where Filho was arrested.

Michael Garrity, communications director for the New Hampshire Department of Justice, referred all questions to ICE.

Agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, or ERO, approached Walsh about their planned arrest of Filho before Monday’s raid. The agents had been watching Filho at different locations in the state and determined the safest place to get him was in Rye, Walsh said.

“They felt this was the best location,” Walsh said.

The arrest went down without any incident or violence on Filho’s part, Walsh said.

Agent John Mohan declined to comment on the arrest.

It was unclear how long Filho has been in the Granite State. He reportedly fled Brazil in 2019, taking his family to the United States after deserting his post in the military police. 

According to a statement from ICE, Filho was convicted along with three other military state police officers of 11 murders plus charges of attempted murder and physical and mental torture for his role in the 2015 massacre in the Curio neighborhood in Fortaleza.

El Globo, a Brazilian news outlet, reported the murders had been retaliation for the death of a Brazilian police officer in Fortaleza. Four of the 11 people murdered were teens under the age of 18, and three were between 18 and 19, according to El Globo.

Once he was convicted this summer, Filho became the subject of a Red Notice issued by Interpol, the international police organization that combines the efforts of police in 195 countries around the world. Interpol Red Notices serve as international wanted notices on fugitives who have fled prosecution or escaped from prison.

Gov. Chris Sununu acknowledged that “not all illegal immigrants are mass murderers,” of course. But he said the incident was yet another reminder of the need to step up U.S. border enforcement, including at New Hampshire’s northern border, where illegal crossings have soared by more than 800 percent.

Sununu is imploring the Biden administration and the Democrats in the federal delegation to restore funding for state support of border enforcement stripped after Joe Biden was elected president. In 2018, New Hampshire received nearly $4 million from the Trump administration through Operation Stone Garden to secure the northern border, but those funds were slashed to $180,000 by the Biden administration in 2022 and $200,000 in 2023.

Biden’s cuts to border security go deeper, however. Biden has been steadily cutting funding across the board. The proposed 2024 budget includes another cut to the number of ICE detention facilities even as the number of illegal immigrant apprehensions reaches record highs.

N.H. Dems Call ICE Employees “Gestapo,” Claim They’re Running “Children’s Concentration Camps”

One candidate calls them the “modern-day Gestapo.” Another says they’re running “concentration camps” for children.

Progressive Democrats running to replace Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire’s First Congressional District don’t like the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and they aren’t hiding their disdain. In addition to wanting the abolish the entire department, several of the Democrats in the race compared these American workers and their actions to the worst of Nazi Germany.

“The actions by the Trump administration on immigration and detention are nothing more than racism played out in policy,” congressional candidate and state representative Mindi Messmer told NHJournal.  “It harkens to dark periods in our history like the Japanese internment Camps and the Holocaust. ICE is a gestapo-like arm of the racist policy and should be abolished.”

“There are many ways in which ICE resembles Germany in the 1930s,” former Strafford County Attorney Lincoln Soldati told NHJournal.  When asked if he was calling the agents of ICE “jackboots,” Soldati replied: “I’m not saying that necessarily about the [US Customs and] Border Patrol. ICE is a special unit. They need to look at themselves and what they’re actually doing and how they’re carrying out their duties. The fact is they, they are not operating within the same constitutional constraints that law enforcement in the country typically is required to.”

“So, I never used the word ‘jackboot,’” Soldati said.  “Maybe the modern day Gestapo, how about that?”

Soldati is one of a growing number of Democratic candidates across the country who’s joined the “Abolish ICE” movement. He believes the entire department should be shut down:

“You have to remember ICE was created as part of… an overreaction to the events of 9/11. I mean, a lot of it is psychologically understandable, going off and invading Afghanistan, etc. All because of the emotional baggage left after 9/11,” Soldati said.

Not all the candidates in the First Congressional District agree that ICE should be eliminated.  Maura Sullivan a former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs and senior Pentagon official in the Obama Administration told NHJournal via email:

“There are legitimate purposes for ICE but President Trump has misdirected ICE to tear families apart, which is inconsistent with our nation’s values. I believe Congress needs more oversight of ICE to prevent future misuse of its resources.” Sullivan has also called on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to resign.

“Our moral compass is being tested by the President’s inhumane, immoral policies,” Chris Pappas tweeted. “Silence is complicity as our govt tears children from parents who seek asylum and a better future.” However, his campaign declined to comment on the Abolish ICE issue.

“We need some mechanism to remove people who are here illegally,” Deaglan McEachern told NHJournal. “If we abolish ICE, it would be INS. Someone would have to do it.”  McEachern stressed that he opposes the Trump administration’s prioritization of enforcing immigration law, and he wanted to see the US make it far easier for more immigrants to come to the US “and get a path to citizenship.”

“They’re doing the jobs Americans won’t do, or Americans can’t do,” McEachern told NHJournal.

But clearly the passion is with the Abolish ICE activists who are gaining support across the country.  Actress-turned-politician Cynthia Nixon has been vocal in her demand that ICE be shut down, calling it a “terrorist organization,” while in Massachusetts progressive candidate Ayanna Pressley has embraced the movement in her race to unseat longtime Democratic incumbent Michael Capuano.   “ICE’s role in supporting the existing system – including separating families seeking refuge in the United States and conducting indiscriminate deportation raids in our communities – is creating an atmosphere of toxic fear and mistrust in immigrant communities,” Pressley said.

Is attacking ICE employees as Gestapo agents overseeing concentration camps a winning political strategy in a purple state like New Hampshire?  In the primary, perhaps. But with a new CBS/YouGov poll showing Americans overwhelmingly support deporting illegal immigrant families stopped at the border (48 percent) as opposed to releasing them into the US to await a hearing (21 percent).  In other words, as much as Americans may hate how the Trump administration is executing the policy, it’s the policy they support.­

UPDATE: Naomi Andrews, former Shea-Porter Chief of Staff, had declined to join the #AbolishICE movement. In a statement to NHJournal she says:

“While there needs to be big changes at ICE, it should not be abolished, because it is responsible for combatting child pornography; money laundering; terrorism; sex trafficking; and other important investigative functions. However, ICE is in desperate need of intense oversight. Republican leadership in Congress has abdicated their constitutional duty of oversight, but there needs to be accountability when rules and laws are broken. Also, Secretary Nielson should resign if she cannot successfully reunite children and their families quickly and safely.”