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Yugoslavian Sentenced to 30 Years in Austin Swindle

November 8, 1985

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ A man who claimed to be a Soviet agent with the power to negotiate the return of a missing American has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for swindling the missing man’s father.

U.S. District Judge James Nowlin sentenced Bratislav Lilic on Thursday after the Chicago resident said he is ″still the only one who can negotiate the release of his son.″

In August, jurors convicted Lilic of bilking Douglas Pierce, of Austin, out of $46,000 by promising he could bring John Pierce home. The younger Pierce, then 29, has been missing since a drilling ship on which he worked sank in the South China Sea in 1983.

Lilic, a Yugoslavian, told the judge, ″I tried everything in my power to help Douglas Pierce. Since the 11 months I have been in custody he has never had any other contacts. All of a sudden, the doors are closed on him.″

Lilic said he has worked as an ″intermediary″ for the Soviets and other Eastern Bloc nations for several years. He said he has seen John Pierce alive in a Vietnamese hospital. The elder Pierce said Lilic once told him he worked for the KGB.

Defense lawyer Joe Turner glanced at his client and told Nowlin, ″He’s sick.″

Pierce said he was satisfied with the sentence, but added, ″I would like to stake him on an ant hill.″

His search for his son continues. Pierce, who said he has spent about $400,000 so far, planned to go to Paris today to follow another lead.

″I will find my son,″ he said.

Nowlin also ordered Lilic to repay the $46,000 he took from Pierce. But after Lilic had been taken from the courtroom the judge told Pierce, ″I don’t expect you’ll ever receive a check for $46,000.″

Prior to the sentencing, Turner asked to be removed from the case. He said Lilic has not been cooperative.

″He has threatened myself and he has threatened my family,″ Turner told the judge.

Lilic said Turner failed to collect evidence that could have helped the defense.

Lilic also complained about his criminal record and family history as compiled in a pre-sentence report. The record shows several burglary convictions and numerous arrests.

″Everybody has ups and downs in life,″ he said. ″Yes, I did have a criminal record. But I didn’t have anything to do with the Watergate burglary.″

He told Nowlin, ″I never defrauded anyone in my life. I wouldn’t know how to defraud someone. I have legitimately worked with the Russian government.″

Turner said Lilic apparently ″honestly believes″ he worked for the Soviets.

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