Former Bosnian Combatant Pleads Guilty to Passport Fraud

Jul 3, 2023

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Massachusetts:

BOSTON – A Winthrop man pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Boston to fraudulently obtaining a U.S. passport, and then using it to enter the United States from Istanbul, Turkey in 2021.

Azem Gigo Zebic, 52, pleaded guilty to one count of use of a fraudulently obtained passport. U.S. District Judge Denise J. Casper scheduled sentencing for Nov. 30, 2023. Zebic was arrested by information and subsequently waived his indictment in May 2023.

Zebic was admitted to the United States from Croatia in 1997 after falsely claiming that he had been the subject of persecution by Serb forces during the Bosnian War. Zebic falsely claimed, among other things, that Serb forces had captured, interrogated, beaten him and forced him to pull wounded soldiers from the front lines. Further, once in the United States, Zebic continued to make false statements about his past, including that he had never assisted anyone else enter the country illegally. However, Zebic had, in fact, assisted another alleged Bosnian combatant – Kemal Mrndzic – enter the United States unlawfully by falsely claiming that he was Mrndzic’s half-brother. Mrndzic, who was recently indicted by a federal grand jury in Boston, allegedly engaged in the persecution of Serbs while a supervisor of guards at the notorious Celebic prison camp before he fraudulently applied for refuge in the United States. Zebic used this false history and his additional false statements, to obtain lawful permanent residency, American citizenship and a United States passport.

The use of a fraudulently obtained passport provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.

Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy; Michael J. Krol, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New England; Sharon B. MacDermott, Special Agent in Charge of the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, Boston Field Office; and Jonathan Davidson, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, Boston Field Office made the announcement today. This matter was investigated with the assistance of the United States Interagency Human Rights Violators & War Crimes Center. Assistant U.S. Attorneys John T. McNeil and Jason A. Casey of Levy’s National Security Unit are prosecuting the case.

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