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New Jersey fugitive makes initial court appearance after 3 years on the run

NEWARK, N.J. — A former Passaic County man who has been a fugitive since 2009 made his initial court appearance Friday. The investigation leading to his apprehension was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Kujtim Lika, 47, formerly of Passaic County, N.J., appeared in Newark Federal Court Friday to face numerous charges, including narcotics and firearms trafficking, money laundering, interstate transportation of stolen property, and criminal conspiracy.

According to court documents, three years ago, 26 individuals were charged – including Lika – with multiple crimes in connection with an investigation into several loosely connected Balkan criminal enterprises operating throughout New Jersey, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Canada, and the Netherlands. The arrests were part of a federal joint operation that began in 2003.

Lika's case was featured on the television program "America's Most Wanted." He was subsequently apprehended May 24, 2012, by the Toronto Police Department/Toronto Task Force in Canada. He had been using the alias, "Dashamir Cela" at the time of his arrest.

He was detained without bail.

The charges and allegations against Lika are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.