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Former Bosnian Serb soldier sentenced

Military service was in a Bosnian police unit that massacred thousands of Muslim men and boys

MILWAUKEE - A former Bosnian Serb special police officer was sentenced Tuesday to a year in prison for making false official statements about his prior military service during the Bosnian civil war. This sentence resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Nedjo Ikonic, 42, a national of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was sentenced Feb. 24 by U.S. District Court Judge Lynn S. Adelman, Eastern District of Wisconsin, to 12 months in federal prison for making false statements about his prior military service on official U.S. immigration documents. Ikonic pleaded guilty in September to two counts of immigration fraud. If this case had gone to trial, the government was prepared to present evidence showing that the military unit commanded by Ikonic participated in an operation that massacred thousands of Muslim men and boys.

Ikonic immigrated to the United States in 2002 as a refugee, but failed to disclose his prior military service on his refugee application. He also omitted mentioning his military service when he later applied for U.S. permanent residence. Ikonic became a U.S. permanent resident ("green card" holder) on Jan. 21, 2005, and resided in Greenfield, Wis., where he was employed as a truck driver.

Ikonic served as a captain (first class) in the Second Jahorina Special Police Company, which was a subordinate of the Bosnian Serb Army, or the Army of the Republika Srpska (VRS). This unit was present in the area of Srebrenica during July 1995 where atrocities, including the execution of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys, were committed by VRS forces. These killings remain Europe's worst war crime since World War II.

In addition to his criminal conviction for making false official statements, Ikonic is already in deportation proceedings for fraudulently obtaining U.S. permanent residence. A federal immigration judge will determine if Ikonic will be stripped of his immigration status and ultimately deported.

A 2006 ICE investigation uncovered 16 individuals in six states, including Ikonic, who were subsequently criminally charged with fraudulently obtaining U.S. refugee status by concealing their service in the Bosnian Serb military.

"Our government's ability to effectively evaluate whether a person is eligible to enter the United States is severely hampered by those who hide their past from us," said Brian Falvey, resident agent-in-charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Milwaukee. "ICE will not allow the United States to be a safe haven for those who failed to disclose their service in military forces that were known to commit atrocities."

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elizabeth Blackwood and Daniel Sanders, Eastern District of Wisconsin.