A Loganville, Georgia, man was sentenced to serve 57 months in prison for obtaining his U.S. citizenship by providing false and fraudulent information on his naturalization application.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney John Horn of the Northern District of Georgia and Special Agent in Charge Nick S. Annan of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Atlanta made the announcement.
Mladen Mitrovic, 55, who is originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, was sentenced on Aug. 26, 2016, by U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg of the Northern District of Georgia. The court also granted a motion to revoke Mitrovic’s citizenship, although the revocation order will not take effect until after a federal court of appeals has reviewed his conviction and sentence. Mitrovic was convicted on May 26, 2016, of failing to disclose his role as a prison guard in a Bosnian Serb Army detention camp as part of the “ethnic cleansing” that occurred during the Bosnian War from 1992 through 1995.
“The defendant tried to game our country’s immigration process to conceal his record of flagrant human rights violations,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “Together with our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and HSI, however, the Criminal Division was able to ensure that both his immigration crimes and his human rights abuses saw the light of day. Cases like this demonstrate how we ensure that the United States does not become a safe haven for human rights violators.”
“Mitrovic believed he could bury his past and the horrific human rights violations he committed during the Bosnian War,” said U. S. Attorney Horn. “Our immigration system endeavors to flag those who have committed human rights violations, especially for those who seek refugee status from persecution. Mitrovic’s application turned this humanitarian process on its head, and it’s incredibly fitting that he ultimately was discovered by a refugee from Mitrovic’s own abuses.”
“Human rights violators who think they can conceal their past to escape accountability in the United States are sorely mistaken,” said Special Agent in Charge Annan. “This individual tried to cheat our nation’s immigration system by lying about his actions during the Bosnian Civil War. Today's result shows that HSI is firmly committed to investigating and identifying criminals who seek to exploit our nation's welcoming policy toward legitimate war refugees.”
According to evidence presented at trial, in 1996, Mitrovic was permitted to immigrate to the United States based on his statements in his refugee application that he feared persecution if he remained in Bosnia. In 2002, he naturalized as an American citizen. The evidence presented at trial also demonstrated that on his naturalization application, Mitrovic stated, among other things, that he had never persecuted anyone because of their race, religion or membership in a social group; he had never committed a criminal offense for which he had not been arrested; and he had never provided any false or misleading information to obtain an immigration benefit, such as refugee status.
In reality, as the trial evidence established, during the Bosnian War, Mitrovic had been a guard in one of the prison camps that the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) opened in May 1992 to “ethnically cleanse” northwest Bosnia of non-Serb minorities. At trial, one victim testified that Mitrovic had used a sharp military knife to carve a Christian cross into his chest, saying from that moment on, he “was going to be a Serb.” Others testified that Mitrovic and other soldiers beat non-Serb prisoners into unconsciousness or threatened to kill them with automatic rifles. Bosnian government documents also showed that in February 1996, Mitrovic applied for and was later awarded veterans’ benefits for his later military service in the VRS during the Bosnian War. Trial evidence showed that Mitrovic failed to disclose any of this conduct or military service on his refugee and naturalization applications.
U.S. authorities began investigating based on information provided by a former prisoner from the prison camp where Mitrovic had served. That individual, who came to the United States as a refugee, thought that Mitrovic had died during the war. But in 2011, he learned that Mitrovic was living in the Atlanta area and he contacted U.S. immigration authorities. At the sentencing hearing, that prisoner and another former prisoner, also a refugee in the United States, addressed the court. One said that he would never forget how people looked after Mitrovic and other soldiers had beaten and tortured them. At trial, the other testified how shocked and frightened he had been when Mitrovic, a friend before the war, threatened to kill him with an automatic rifle.
HSI investigated this case. Assistant Deputy Chief Christina Giffin of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Traynor and Jessica Morris of the Northern District of Georgia prosecuted the case.
If you have information about individuals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes, please call the HSI tip line at 866-DHS-2-ICE, or complete its online tip form. Information may also be provided to the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org