No bail for mom, dad of accused shoplifting family

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A judge ordered a wife detained along with her husband this afternoon on charges they shoplifted nationwide, saying he couldn’t release her for fear she would flee while awaiting trial.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Mason ordered Lela Bogdanov, 52, held without bond as a flight risk because of her many uses of aliases and dates of birth to conceal her identity. He also found that parts of her background were “unknown and uncertain.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Renato Mariotti said Lela Bogdanov seemed to be feigning ignorance of English even though she had conducted lengthy interviews with investigators in the language. He also said she had tried to give the appearance in court of being a “feeble person” who “shuffled” to the front of the courtroom even though surveillance video showed her “sprinting very quickly in and out of the stores with great agility.”

“There’s more to Lela Bogdanov than meets the eye,” Mariotti said.

Mariotti said Lela Bogdanov had no legal authority to be in the U.S and at one point voluntarily left the country when immigration officials said they would deport her. But she returned not long after, the prosecutor said.

“That’s not true,” family members shouted out, prompting the judge to warn them he would remove them from the courtroom with another outburst.

Mason had detained Lela Bogdanov’s husband, Branko, 58, earlier Monday, saying he had the financial wherewithal to flee if released – including a million-dollar home in Northbrook and a dozen vehicles.

Mariotti said Branko Bogdanov, 58, had “every reason to flee” as he faced more than 12 years in prison if convicted and likely deportation.

“His past conduct makes clear that he can’t be trusted to (follow the law),” Mariotti said.

Mariotti said that Branko Bogdanov was ordered deported from the US in 1994 but he was never actually held on an on ICE detainer despite 16 arrests and 6 convictions.

Branko Bogdanov’s attorney, Forrest Tatel, said his client was not deportable because he no longer had a country of origin after the breakup of Yugoslavia. He said his client arrived in the U.S. in 1973 and regularly reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement after being ordered deported.

Mariotti also said Branko Bogdanov had lied when he told court officials after his arrest last week that he had a negative net worth of $28,000. Among the dozen vehicles he owns are a Corvette, Lexus, Mercedes, Cadillac and a Kawasaki motorcycle, he said.

Branko Bogdanov’s lawyer told the judge that his client has been self-employed in the carpet business.

The judge continued the hearing for the Bogdanovs’ daughter, Julia, until Tuesday so she can attempt to find a suitable person to stay with while on bail. Mason rejected her first choice, a sister, after learning she had been convicted once of retail theft.

-Chicago Tribune reporting

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