Former Serbian police officer pleads to immigration fraud

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

LAWRENCEVILLE — Lawrenceville resident Zeljko Zekic, 48, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to lying to federal immigration officials about his place of residence and employment during the Bosnian War of 1992 to 1995.

Specifically, Zekic claimed on his immigration paperwork that he was unemployed and living in the Serbian Republic when in fact he was living in a Serbian-controlled town inside Bosnia and was an active-duty member of the Serbian paramilitary police during the period of armed conflict, according to a news release.

“This man, who was part of the paramilitary apparatus controlled by recently captured war criminal Ratko Mladic, twice misled federal immigration officials into believing that he was only a refugee of the struggles that tore Bosnia and Herzegovina apart, rather than a member of the group that has been identified as a very substantial part of that war,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said.

Zekic and his family applied for refugee access to the United States in 2002. Partly on the basis of the fraudulent forms, the family’s application was approved, and Zekic moved to the United States, eventually settling in Lawrenceville, the news release states. Zekic ultimately received a green card and is now a permanent resident alien.

Subsequent research by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit revealed that Zekic had lied about his job and his residence during the Bosnian War.

At the time Zekic applied for refugee status, all adult male Serbs who had lived in Bosnia at the time of Bosnian War were subject to additional questioning concerning any possible connection to Republic of Serbia Army units that committed war-time atrocities in Srebrenica and elsewhere, the news release states.