$7 Million Shoplifting Family Jailed After Flight Risk Fears, ‘If You Let Him Go, He’ll Disappear’

Branko Bogdanov, 58, and his wife, Lela, 52, have been charged with shoplifting $7 million in goods over a ten-year period.

According to a report from the Associated Press, the couple, emigrated from the former Yugoslavia, and are now living near Chicago – illegally, according to prosecutor Renato Marriotti.

The prosecutor told the court that the couple both had arrest records, and said, referring to the husband. “This defendant has nothing to lose. I think if you let him go… he’ll disappear.”

Consequently, a federal judge decided on Monday that, since the couple are a definite flight risk, they must remain in jail until the case goes to trial.

The indictment also includes their 34-year-old daughter, Julia Bognadov. The judge, Michael Mason, did not make an immediate ruling regarding her remaining in jail. The family were arrested last week in the well-to-do neighborhood of Northbrook

The prosecution also alleged that Branko Bogdanov tried to mislead officials by claiming he was $28,500 in debt.The truth is, according to Mariotti, that he owns his $1.3 million house and 12 motor vehicles, including a Lexus and Corvette.

Mariotti also scorned Lela Bognadov’s claim to be ill, pointing out that her slow shuffling gait in court contrasted with surveillance video which showed her running out of stores with toys and other items tucked under her skirt.

However, Lela’s attorney, Jim Fieweger, claimed that she has cancer, and denied she was faking illness. He described her as “functionally illiterate” and dependent on five U.S.-born children.

He told the court that she is not in possession of either a passport or a driving licence and, therefore, had no way of leaving the country.

Nevertheless, Judge Michael Mason referred to her alleged history of using aliases, which was an indication that she was, indeed, a flight risk.

Suspicions about the family arose after Barnes and Noble Inc. and Toys R Us Inc. contacted authorities following large-scale thefts from their stores. After investigation, the value of the shoplifting spree was calculated to be about $ 7 million. Some items were eventually traced to the Bogdanovs.

All the family face the same single count of interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum 10-year prison term. To date none of them has entered a plea.

It isn’t clear whether any of the $7 million obtained by the shoplifting can be clawed back.

If not, taking into account time off for good behavior, the value of the family’s assets represents a very profitable venture.