MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota man was charged Wednesday with immigration fraud for allegedly lying on his immigration documents by concealing war crimes he committed during the Bosnian war in the 1990s.
Zdenko Jakisa, 45, appeared in U.S. District Court in Minnesota on one count of possessing unlawfully obtained documents. He was ordered detained, and another hearing was set for Monday. He will be appointed a public defender, according to court documents.
Authorities say that when he was filling out refugee and legal permanent resident applications, he didn’t disclose that he had served in the armed forces of the Croatian Defense Council in Bosnia-Herzegovina and had gone to prison.
Jakisa’s crimes include killing an elderly Bosnian Serb woman and kidnapping, robbing and assaulting a Bosnian Muslim man in 1993, the Department of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a news release. The agencies cited records from Bosnia and Bosnian witnesses and noted that prosecutors in Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the investigation.
Katherine Menendez, the attorney who represented Jakisa during his initial court appearance Wednesday, didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.
According to a June 6, 2012, article in the Forest Lake Press, Jakisa and his wife applied to come to the U.S. in 1998 through the U.S. Embassy in Croatia. They were approved through a lottery system and sponsored by Catholic Charities and a local church.
That article mentions that Jakisa was required to serve in the military in Croatia’s 1991-95 war for independence from the Serb-led Yugoslavia.
“I lost tons of my friends,” Jakisa told the newspaper. “My brother is also in a wheelchair, shot in the spine. There is almost no person in Croatia who did not lose somebody or is not crying for somebody. It was a bad war for nothing — just good for government people so they can still talk lies to their own people.”
Jakisa has a lengthy criminal record in Minnesota, including multiple convictions for driving while impaired, disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process.
More than 100,000 people were killed during the Bosnian war, which also turned half of the country’s population of 4.3 million into refugees.