Former Bosnia wartime prison camp guard who settled in US facing federal charges

May 17, 2023, 2:08 PM

A former guard at a notorious prison camp in Bosnia-Herzegovina who used a fabricated story to obtain refugee status in the U.S. and settled in the Boston suburbs has been arrested on fraud and other charges, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Kemal Mrndzic, 50, was living in Swampscott, about 13 miles (20 kilometers) from Boston, at the time of his arrest, representatives for the U.S. Department of Justice said. Prosecutors said Mrndzic worked as guard at the Čelebići prison camp during the Bosnian War in the 1990s, and was identified by survivors as being involved in beatings and abuses that the camp was widely known for.

Mrndzic fled the country after the war by crossing into Croatia and applying as a refugee to the U.S., prosecutors said. He falsely claimed he was captured and abused by Serb forces and could not return home, prosecutors said.

Mrndzic was admitted to the U.S. as a refugee in 1999 and became a naturalized citizen a decade later, prosecutors said. They said he has been charged with falsifying, concealing, and covering up a material fact from the U.S. government and other crimes.

“According to court documents, after the war ended, investigators from the (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) interviewed Mrndzic in Sarajevo and allegedly accused him of being involved in the abuses at Celebici,” the Department of Justice said in a statement, adding that three of Mrndzic’s fellow guards were convicted by the tribunal.

Mrndzic made an initial appearance in federal court in Boston on Wednesday and was released on a $30,000 cash bond.

A phone listing for Mrndzic in Swampscott was disconnected on Wednesday. Calls to other listings under his name in the area were not returned.

Mrndzic is represented by Brendan Kelley, a federal defender based in Boston. Kelley did not return a phone call seeking comment on Wednesday.

Other charges against Mrndzic include using a fraudulently obtained U.S. passport and possessing and using a fraudulently obtained naturalization certificate and fraudulently obtained Social Security card, prosecutors said. A conviction for use of a fraudulently obtained passport and a fraudulently obtained naturalization certificate each carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

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Former Bosnia wartime prison camp guard who settled in US facing federal charges