Naturalized U.S. Citizen From Bosnia Arrested On Charge Of Fraudulently Obtaining Citizenship
Indictment alleges series of lies in naturalization process, including failure to disclose Serbian-militia service and murder charges during Bosnian Conflict
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Alexander KNEGINICH, 56, of Crown Point, Indiana, was arrested on December 19, 2016 near Kalamazoo, Michigan by special agents of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, after being indicted on a felony charge of having fraudulently obtained U.S. citizenship after he emigrated from Bosnia-Herzegovina to the United States.
The indictment, which was returned by a grand jury for the Western District of Michigan on December 15, 2016, alleges that KNEGINICH told a series of lies to U.S. immigration authorities in the course of obtaining authority to enter the United States as a refugee, subsequently obtaining permanent-resident status, and ultimately obtaining U.S. citizenship. Specifically, the indictment asserts that, when he applied for refugee status, KNEGINICH falsely stated that his wife was an ethnic Croatian and that, because he is Serbian, they had to flee Bosnia to avoid the persecution experienced by persons in ethnically-mixed marriages; that KNEGINICH knowingly failed to disclose in both his refugee application and his permanent-resident application that he had served in Bosnian Serb military units during the Balkans Conflict of the early 1990’s; that KNEGINICH knowingly failed to disclose in those applications that he had been charged, jailed and tried in Bosnia for the 1994 murders of two Muslim civilians; and, finally, that KNEGINICH falsely stated in his naturalization application that he had never lied to U.S. immigration authorities to obtain immigration benefits.
The case is being jointly prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP) of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “For persons who immigrate into the United States, citizenship is the brass ring,” stated U.S. Attorney Pat Miles, “and this Office will zealously pursue any case where that prized status appears to have been obtained through fraud and deceit.” “Cases where people lie about their past in order to cheat the nation’s immigration system are among HSI’s highest investigative priorities,” said Steve Francis, acting Special Agent-in-Charge of HSI Detroit. “As an agency, these cases take particular precedence when the individual’s past may include human-rights violations.”
If convicted, KNEGINICH faces up to ten years in federal prison. Conviction would also result in automatic revocation of KNEGINICH’s U.S. citizenship, and likely deportation and/or extradition back to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The charges in an indictment are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.
HSI investigated the case. It is being prosecuted by HRSP Trial Attorney Jamie Perry and Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagen W. Frank. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance in this matter.