Couple charged in $7 million shoplifting jailed
CHICAGO (AP) — The heads of a suburban Chicago family accused of stealing $7 million in goods in a decadelong, multistate shoplifting spree will stay in jail pending trial because they are flight risks, a federal judge ruled Monday.
Branko Bogdanov, 58, and his wife, Lela Bogdanov, 52, allegedly operated in tandem with their daughter to pilfer merchandise and sell it on eBay. They were arrested last week at their home in a wealthy Northbrook neighborhood.
Prosecutor Renato Marriotti said the husband and wife emigrated from what was then Yugoslavia and are in the U.S. illegally. Both, he said, had arrest records.
“This defendant has nothing to lose,” Mariotti said at Monday’s detention hearing, referring to the husband. “I think if you let him go ... he’ll disappear.”
He also accused Branko Bogdanov of misleading officials by claiming he’s $28,500 in debt. In fact, Mariotti said, he owns his $1.3 million house and 12 vehicles, including a Lexus and Corvette.
Separately, Mariotti accused Lela Bogdanov of exaggerating illness, saying her slow shuffle in court contrasted with surveillance video of her sprinting out of stores with toys and other items tucked under her skirt.
But her attorney, Jim Fieweger, said she has cancer and denied she was feigning infirmity. He described her as “functionally illiterate” and dependent on five U.S.-born children. He added she has no passport or driver’s license.
“She has no way to take herself to (the former) Yugoslavia,” he said.
In ruling she be held, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Mason cited her alleged history of using aliases, saying that indicated she could try to flee.
An investigation began after Barnes and Noble Inc. and Toys R Us Inc. contacted authorities about large-scale thefts from their stores, and some items were eventually traced to the Bogdanovs, the federal complaint says.
All three family members face the same single count of interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum 10-year prison term. None has entered a plea.
Judge Mason did not immediately rule on whether the 34-year-old daughter, Julia Bogdanov, should remain behind bars.
Prosecutors said they were open to letting her live at the Northbrook home. When the judge asked if there were any guns at the house, her lawyer said that there was just one — an antique musket that may not fire.
“They should get it out of there,” Mason said.
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