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Former Bosnian Serb soldier sentenced for making false statements

Immigrant concealed military service in Bosnian Civil War

CLEVELAND - A former Bosnian Serb soldier was sentenced here Tuesday for making false 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).

Ratko Maslenjak, 48, a national of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. for making false statements about his prior military service on official U.S. immigration documents. Maslenjak's sentence includes six months of home confinement with electronic monitoring and two years probation.

Maslenjak immigrated to the United States as a refugee, but failed to disclose his military service on his immigration application. He again failed to disclose his military service in 2004 when he applied for U.S. permanent residence. He was found guilty of two counts of immigration fraud in October.

In addition to the criminal conviction, ICE has placed Maslenjak in administrative immigration removal proceedings for obtaining his permanent residence status by fraud. A federal immigration judge will determine if Maslenjak will be stripped of his immigration status and ultimately deported.

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

Maslenjak served in the Army of the Republika Srpska (VRS), holding the rank of sargent, serving as a company commander in the summer of 1995 in the Bratunac Light Infantry Brigade of the Drina Corps. An investigation conducted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Republic of Yugoslavia into the allegations that the VRS was involved in acts of genocide and persecution against Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in July 1995 resulted in seizing military records. The records indicated that Maslenjak's brigade had taken part in military operations where VRS units overran a United Nations safe area, and committed acts of genocide and persecution on 7,000 to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim refugees. The Bosnian Conflict remains Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

No evidence was presented that Maslenjak was personally involved in any acts of genocide or persecution.

"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 M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations for Ohio and Michigan. 'ICE is committed to investigating those who have fraudulently obtained their entry into the U.S."

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip J. Tripi, and Michael J. Rendon, special assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.