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Ohio sausage maker charged for lying to feds about his past as convicted Serbian war criminal

Members of the Croatian Special Forces unit Zebras, sweep the town of Petrinja for snipers on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 1991, some 30 miles south of the Croatian capital of Zagreb. Federal Air Force jets bomed Zagreb late Tuesday in the first major fighting in the capital city. (AP Photo/Greg English)

Members of the Croatian Special Forces unit Zebras sweep the town of Petrinja for snipers on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 1991, some 30 miles south of the Croatian capital of Zagreb. A Serbian Army officer who fought in that town where he is accused of a war crime lives in Ohio and faces charges for lying to U.S. authorities about his past. (AP Photo/Greg English)

A former Serbian Army officer living in Ohio where he owns a Balkan-style sausage market faces federal charges for lying to federal authorities about his war crime conviction stemming from his part in the ethnically motivated attack on civilians in Croatia in the 1990s.

Jugoslav Vidic, 55, was charged last month with one count of possessing a green card that was procured using materially false statements and one count of making false statements to a federal agent, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release.

The statements included omitting his military service as a lieutenant in the Serb Army of Krajina from 1991 to 1995, and falsely stating he had never participated in killing a person because of ethnic origin or political opinion, officials said.

Authorities alleged that during an attack by ethnic Serb military forces in a central Croatian town in September 1991, he singled out a Croatian and led him away at gunpoint.

“Vidic singled out and took away at gunpoint a Croatian civilian who had recently shaken hands with Croatia’s then-president, Franjo Tudjman, who supported Croatian independence from Yugoslavia,” the news release said. “The victim was never seen alive again and his body was later exhumed from a mass grave.”

Vidic’s attorney David Misiewicz declined to comment Tuesday.

Court documents outline Vidic’s time as a Serbian officer in Croatia.

Between 1991 and 1995, he served in the ethnic Serbian military forces, including the Serbian army of Krajina, and he was seen in Petrinja, a town in central Croatia, wearing a red beret and carrying a rifle, the indictment said.

He was assigned to the 39th Reconnaissance-Sabotage Squad. During his service, he attained the ranks of sergeant and lieutenant, court documents state.

On Sept. 16, 1991, he took part in an attack on the Gavrilović meat processing factory in Petrinja.

He singled out a worker, Stjepan Komes, who had been seen in news footage weeks earlier shaking hands with Tudjman, during a visit to the town, according to court records.

“Defendant singled out Komes and led him away at gunpoint,” the indictment states. “Komes’ children identified his body after it was exhumed from a mass grave in the Petrinja area.”

In 1994 Vidic was charged with a war crime in Croatia for his participation in the murder of Komes. He was convicted in absentia in December 1998. On May 6, 1999, the Croatian Supreme Court affirmed his conviction.

In September 1999, he lied in an interview by a U.S. immigration officer in Romania in connection with his application to become a refugee in the United States, court records said.

On Sept. 29, 1999, he immigrated to the U.S. as a refugee. His application to become a lawful permanent resident was approved in 2005.

Vidic was in the news in 2009 when he was accused of sexually harassing four female employees while he was a meat department manager with a Cleveland-based grocery store chain. The case prompted a lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging he subjected women to egregious sexual harassment.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture issued a recall of some of Vidic’s Balkan-style sausages made in 2018 and distributed by his company Jugo’s Inc. after the agency said the sausages had been produced without an inspection.

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