$7 million shoplifting spree leads to family's arrest after a decade

$7 million shoplifting spree has resulted in arrest and charges for a Yugoslav couple and their daughter. Prosecuters say the $7 million shoplifting spree involved the family working in tandem to pilfer merchandise and sell it on eBay.

Courtesy of the Palatine Police Department/AP
Branko Bogdanov, 58, of Northbrook, Ill. Bogdanov,his wife Lela Bogdanov and their daughter, Julia Bogdanov are charged in an alleged $7 million shoplifting spree. They were arrested last week at their luxury home in Northbrook and are charged with one count each of interstate transportation of stolen property.

A Yugoslav couple living near Chicago accused of stealing goods in a decade-long, $7 million 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 the wealthy neighborhood of Northbrook.

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 millionhouse 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.

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