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Ohio man charged with immigration fraud for concealing war crime charge in Croatia

Human RightsOhio man charged with immigration fraud for concealing war crime charge in Croatia

WASHINGTON – An Ohio man was arraigned Jan. 26 on criminal charges related to his alleged false statements to U.S. immigration and law enforcement officials about his military service and involvement in a politically and ethnically-motivated attack on civilians in Croatia during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, following a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Detroit, FBI joint probe.

According to the indictment unsealed Thursday, Jugoslav Vidic, 55, allegedly made multiple false statements in his successful application to become a lawful permanent resident, including falsely stating that his only past military service was in the Yugoslav Army from 1988 to 1989 and omitting his service in the Serb Army of Krajina and its predecessors from 1991 to 1995. The indictment alleges Vidic falsely stated that he had never been charged with breaking any law even though he had been convicted in absentia in 1998 of a war crime in Croatia, and falsely stated that he had never participated in killing a person because of ethnic origin or political opinion. Vidic also allegedly participated in an attack by ethnic Serb military forces in September 1991 in which Vidic singled out and took away at gunpoint a Croatian civilian who had recently shaken hands with Croatia’s then-president, Franjo Tudjman, who supported Croatian independence from Yugoslavia. The victim was never seen alive again and his body was later exhumed from a mass grave.

Vidic immigrated to the United States in 1999. His application to become a lawful permanent resident was approved in 2005. Vidic is also accused of lying to law enforcement agents in 2017 when questioned about his immigration application. Vidic is charged with one count of possessing a green card that was procured by means of materially false statements and one count of making false statements to a federal agent. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for the first charge and a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the second.

Acting Executive Associate Director Steve Francis of HSI, Special Agent in Charge Angie M. Salazar of the HSI Detroit Field Office, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler for the Northern District of Ohio, Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, and Special Agent in Charge Gregory D. Nelsen of the FBI Cleveland Field Office, made the announcement.

Trial Attorney Patrick Jasperse of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew W. Shepherd and Jerome J. Teresinski for the Northern District of Ohio are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also provided assistance.

HSI and the FBI are investigating the case with coordination provided by the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC), including the FBI’s International Human Rights Unit (IHRU). The Department of Justice thanks the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration of the Republic of Croatia, which were both instrumental in furthering this investigation.

Established in 2008, the HRVWCC furthers HSI’s efforts to identify, locate and prosecute human rights abusers in the United States, including those who are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, female genital mutilation and the use or recruitment of child soldiers. The HRVWCC leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, lawyers, intelligence and research specialists, historians and analysts who direct the agency’s broader enforcement efforts against these offenders.

Since 2003, HSI has arrested more than 480 individuals for human rights-related violations of the law under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, HSI obtained deportation orders against and physically removed 1100 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Additionally, HSI has facilitated the departure of an additional 186 such individuals from the United States.

Currently, HSI has more than 160 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,700 leads and removals cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries. Since 2003, the HRVWCC has issued more than 78,000 lookouts for individuals and stopped over 350 human rights violators and war crimes suspects from entering the U.S.

Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to call the HSI tip line at: 1-866-DHS-2423 (1-866-347-2423). Callers may remain anonymous.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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