Labor trafficker sentenced for encouraging the illegal entry of Guatemalan nationals, including unaccompanied minors, into the United States
WASHINGTON – An Ohio man pleaded guilty today to possessing a green card he illegally obtained by concealing that he had been charged with a war crime in Croatia prior to emigrating to the United States.
According to court documents, Jugoslav Vidic, 55, of Parma Heights, in applying to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States, falsely stated that he had never been charged with breaking any law even though he knew he had been charged in Croatia with a war crime against the civilian population. Vidic also falsely stated 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 during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 1995. As a result of these materially false statements, Vidic was approved for lawful permanent status and received a green card.
“Jugoslav Vidic knew he had been charged with a war crime, concealed that fact from U.S. immigration officials so he could enter the United States, and enjoyed lawful status in this country for nearly 20 years,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Thanks to the dedication of prosecutors, law enforcement, and our international partners, Vidic will serve prison time and then be removed from this country. His conviction demonstrates that no human rights violation is too distant for the Justice Department to seek accountability.”
“By pleading guilty, Jugoslav Vidic admitted that he lied in his application to become a lawful permanent U.S. resident, hiding the fact that he had been charged with and convicted in absentia of committing war crimes in Croatia,” said U.S. Attorney Rebecca C. Lutzko for the Northern District of Ohio. “He also admitted to concealing his military service during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, including in the specialized ‘Red Berets’ unit. Vidic tried to outrun his past, but today it caught up with him. Our country has long provided opportunities for refugees searching for a better life, but America extends that privilege with the expectation that applicants respect basic human rights and are truthful about their personal history. The Justice Department will hold accountable anyone, such as Vidic, who abuses our immigration system by trying to hide his crimes against humanity.”
Vidic was charged with a war crime in Croatia in 1994 and convicted in absentia in 1998. The Croatian court found that during an attack by ethnic Serb forces in Petrinja, Croatia, on Sept. 16, 1991, Vidic cut off the arm of civilian Stjepan Komes, who died afterward. Vidic knew about the Croatian charges when he immigrated to the United States as a refugee in 1999, applied to become a lawful permanent resident in 2000, and was interviewed by U.S. immigration officials and received his green card in 2005.
“This guilty plea underscores the importance of these complex investigations and the closure they can provide to victims’ families,” said Executive Associate Director Katrina W. Berger of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “HSI special agents, along with our law enforcement partners both here in the United States and across the globe, will continue the vital work of ensuring that war criminals like Vidic can no longer hide from justice.”
“The FBI is committed to ensuring that perpetrators of war crimes find no safe haven in the United States and are held accountable for lying and fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizen privileges,” said Assistant Director Michael Nordwall of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI will continue to work alongside our domestic and international partners to pursue justice — no matter how long it takes.”
Vidic pleaded guilty to one count of possessing an alien registration receipt card knowing it had been procured through materially false statements. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 29, 2024. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
As part of the plea agreement, Vidic agreed to the entry of a judicial order of removal from the United States. Vidic would be required to serve any sentence imposed in the United States before being removed.
HSI and the FBI are investigating the case with coordination provided by the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, including the FBI’s International Human Rights Unit. The Justice Departments 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 the investigation.
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.
Members of the public who have information about human rights violators in the United States are urged to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) or through the FBI online tip form, or HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or through the ICE online tip form. All are staffed around the clock, and tips may be provided anonymously.