GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — A mid-western trucker has been arrested for allegedly hiding that he’d been part of a Serbian death squad in the 1990s and had faced trial in Bosnia for murdering Muslims when he applied to come to U.S. as a refugee and later became a citizen.
Alexander Kneginich, 56, of Crown Point, Indiana, had served in an ethnic Serb army during Bosnia’s brutal civil war in the early 1990s, federal prosecutors said. In 1994, he and three others were charged with storming into a Muslim couple’s home and fatally shooting them.
The men were initially acquitted, but in 1996, the verdict was overturned and they faced retrial. In 2000, Kneginich allegedly lied on an application for refugee status in the United States, by claiming that his wife was ethnic Croat and that as a mixed-marriage couple they feared for their safety. Prosecutors say his now ex-wife is actually Serbian.
On his Facebook page, Kneginich featured a picture of a flag of a banned fascist party in Serbia that has been accused of burning synagogues and mosques and attacking ethnic Roma. On his right arm, Kneginich sports a prison tattoo of a Serbian crucifix.
In 2001, Kneginich was granted refugee status and settled in northern Indiana where he has worked as an electrician and a long-haul trucker. In 2007, he became a U.S. citizen in Michigan. Two years later, two of his co-defendants were retried in Bosnia and were convicted. Kneginich avoided retrial because he had resettled in the U.S.
Throughout his immigration process, prosecutors say he lied on his applications by failing to disclose that he had been charged with murder and had spent time in jail awaiting trial. He is also accused of lying about his wife’s ethnicity to gain refugee status.
“For persons who immigrate into the United States, citizenship is the brass ring,” said Pat Miles, U.S. Attorney in Michigan. “This office will zealously pursue any case where that prized status appears to have been obtained through fraud and deceit.”
Kneginich faces up to 10 years in prison and will lose his citizenship and be deported back to Bosnia if he is convicted.