Local attorney indicted in 'marriage fraud' scheme

Jefferson City lawyer James Douglas (Doug) Barding appeared in U.S. District Court Tuesday, after being indicted by a federal grand jury for marriage fraud conspiracy.

Tammy Dickinson, the Kansas City-based U.S. Attorney for Western Missouri, said in a news release that Barding, 60, was added as a defendant in a case originally filed last October, but not released to the public until February.

The previous indictment, and the new one issued April 24 but not made public until Barding’s court appearance Tuesday, charges the defendants with creating a conspiracy to commit marriage fraud in 2007, in order to evade immigration laws.

Barding was named in a 15-page, six-count “superseding” indictment, which means it replaced or modified a previous charge.

He’s charged with conspiracy, marriage fraud and attempting to “unlawfully procure citizenship or naturalization.”

Late Tuesday afternoon, Barding referred a reporter to his attorney, Christopher A. Slusher, Columbia, for a comment for this story, but Slusher wasn’t available.

The original defendants, identified in February, are: Oleksandr Nikolayevich Druzenko, also known as “Alex” or “Sasha,” 32, Jefferson City; former Jefferson City resident Patricia Anne Ewalt, 61, whose home now is listed as El Paso, Texas; and Darya Chernova, 38, now of Chandler, Ariz.

The indictment identified Druzenko as a Ukranian who entered the United States in August 2004, on a student visa and “attended college in Missouri and elsewhere.”

He has worked for the state’s Office of Administration and, according to the OA website, www.mapyourtaxes.mo.gov, he currently is a staff auditor for State Auditor Tom Schweich.

Chernova also is a Ukranian, who also came to the U.S. on a student visa.

She attended, and played tennis for, Lincoln University.

“In about 2005 and 2006,” the indictment charged, “Chernova had, with the assistance of ... Barding, a married United States citizen with whom (Chernova) had an affair, enlisted and secured a United States citizen to marry her so that she could remain in the United States.”

That marriage isn’t detailed in the indictments announced Tuesday or in February.

Instead, Chernova was indicted in January by a federal grand jury in Eastern Missouri.

In that case, U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan and his staff provided court documents and testimony showing that Barding offered $36,000 to Helias Catholic High School teacher Timothy Dunville to marry Chernova.

Dunville hasn’t been charged in either the St. Louis or Kansas City case, but resigned from Helias for personal reasons.

Barding has not been charged in the St. Louis case.

The Western District indictments say the conspiracy was intended “to knowingly defraud the United States, that is, the Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), in regard to the proper administration of laws and regulations as applied to immigration and naturalization, including but not limited to, applications for conditional permanent resident status and for full permanent resident status.”

The goal, the charges allege, “was for Druzenko to fraudulently obtain conditional permanent resident status, lawful permanent resident status, and eventual citizenship in the United States.”

The indictments noted Druzenko would have had to leave the U.S. “within 60 days after graduation,” and the conspiracy began in 2007 when “Druzenko, Chernova and Barding “began looking for and enlisting a United States citizen to marry Druzenko so that he could remain in the United States without having to depart. ... They approached several persons and, in March 2007, procured a marriage license with one of the candidates, (but) this individual later in the month declined to enter the sham marriage.”

After that, the indictment charged, Druzenko “was introduced to and met Patricia Anne Ewalt as a candidate for marriage. Barding had enlisted Ewalt to marry Druzenko so that he could remain in the United States (and) Druzenko and Ewalt were married on June 22, 2007.”

After the marriage, Druzenko and Ewalt filed documents with federal officials over a period of time, which the indictments say they knew were false statements made under oath.

Earlier coverage, posted at 3:54 p.m. April 30, 2013:

Jefferson City lawyer James D. Barding appeared in U.S. District Court today, after being indicted by a federal grand jury for marriage fraud conspiracy.

Barding, 60, mostly does criminal defense work, although he also has handled other types of cases.

Tammy Dickinson, the U.S. attorney for Western Missouri, said in a news release that Barding was charged in a superseding indictment returned under seal on April 24, then released today and made public in conjunction with Barding's first court appearance.

The superseding indictment adds Barding as a co-defendant with Oleksandr Nikolayevich Druzenko, also known as "Alex" or "Sasha," 32, of Jefferson City; former Jefferson City resident Patricia Anne Ewalt, 60, whose home now is listed as El Paso, Texas: and Darya Chernova, 38, of Chandler, Ariz.

Druzenko, Ewalt and Chernova previously were named in an Oct. 3, 2012, indictment listing charges relating to the same reported conspiracy to commit marriage fraud in 2007, in order to evade immigration laws.

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