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Published November 09 2010

Fargo woman gets prison time for fraud

Kelima Smailagic wasn’t acting out of necessity when she helped steal the identities of two people, take out credit cards in their names and defraud several financial institutions out of about $45,000.

The 22-year-old Fargo woman made purchases out of desire – like $800 worth of jewelry, $800 in hair extensions and work on her 2006 Mercedes.

“She was not somebody who was in a bind and desperate to provide,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Chase said. “This was someone on a joyride.”

Smailagic will spend eight months in federal prison, followed by up to three years of supervised release, for her part in a credit card and mail fraud conspiracy. She faced 30 years in prison.

The amount of restitution Smailagic will pay hasn’t yet been decided.

She was charged in December with 13 federal charges and sentenced Monday on one of them. The remaining counts were dismissed as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

Smailagic’s involvement totaled less than $10,000, so Chase said she was “not as culpable” as her boyfriend, Emir Tiric, who has been linked to the case.

Tiric hasn’t faced any charges yet because he fled the country to avoid prosecution, Chase said.

Smailagic briefly apologized during her sentencing hearing Monday.

“I know what I did was wrong,” she said.

Her attorney, Bruce Quick, requested a four-month prison sentence, followed by four months on work release, so Smailagic could keep her two part-time jobs in Fargo and work toward future restitution payments.

Quick acknowledged Smailagic is “very immature, gullible and somewhat naïve,” but emphasized her small role in the conspiracy when asking for the lesser sentence.

District Court Judge Ralph R. Erickson said Smailagic is of an age when she ought to know better.

“You’re not going to get by on being young, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, and older men take advantage of me,’ ” he said.

Erickson scolded Smailagic for her repeated dishonesty, which he said made matters worse for her as federal authorities investigated the crimes.

He warned that if she continued, it might result in her being deported.

Smailagic was born in a Croatian refugee camp to Bosnian parents. Because of this felony conviction, she now faces hearings with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“You have to change how you interact with people in authority,” Erickson said. “If you don’t, bad things are going to happen to you.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541