After admitting to a multi-state shoplifting spree that allegedly netted millions of dollars worth of stolen, Northlake couple Branko and Lela Bogdanov’s traveling days are done for five to 10 years years.
The pair Friday pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges, though both maintained the $7 million tally federal prosecutors put on their theft was far higher than the amount they actually stole. Two days earlier, the couple’s daughter, Julia Bogdanov, pleaded guilty to the same charges, admitting to helping their parents as they stole items in a 2013 swing through stores in Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Florida.
Branko Bogdanov | Photo provided
Prosecutors said surveillance video shows the trio swiping items — including American Girl dolls and Lego kits — from stores and concealing them beneath Lela Bogdanov’s floor-length skirt. On one sweep through a Houston shopping mall, the three made off with some $12,000 in merchandise without being stopped by store security, according to the criminal complaint filed last year.
“Guilty, guilty, guilty,” Lela Bogdanov answered in heavily accented English when U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood asked for her plea.
Both Bogdanovs face up to 10 years in prison, and face deportation when they finish their sentences because neither are legal residents of the U.S.
The 59-year-old Branko fled Serbia, which was then part of the former Yugoslavia, in his teens. Lela’s lawyer said she arrived in the U.S. as a toddler and did not know the nation of her birth.
When Wood asked Lela Bogdanov to name her nationality, Bogdanov replied “Romany. Gypsy.”
Branko had avoided deportation in the past, and likely would again, said his lawyer, Sheldon Sorosky.
“Yugoslavia no longer exists. Serbia doesn’t want him,” Sorosky said. “The United States has tried to deport him in the past. No one wants him.”
Lela Bogdanov’s lawyer, Michael Goode, said the government will never be able to prove the three managed to steal more than a few thousand dollars worth of merchandise in total.
“I’d say they can show maybe $40,000 worth of stuff,” Goode said. “And that’s still a lot of Legos.”