U.S. Attorney indicts three on marriage fraud

Alleged scheme involved Jefferson City residents

Three people with Jefferson City connections were named in a federal indictment released Friday, in a marriage fraud conspiracy.

Tammy Dickinson — the U.S. Attorney for Missouri’s Kansas City-based Western District — announced Friday afternoon that a federal grand jury in Jefferson City issued a “superseding indictment” last Oct. 3 — but the information only now was being released and publicized following the arrest and first court appearance of Oleksandr Nikolayevich Druzenko, Jefferson City.

Druzenko — known as “Alex” or “Sasha” — is a Ukranian national who came to the United States on a student visa in August 2004. He’s been working for Missouri’s Office of Administration.

He’s charged with conspiracy, marriage fraud and two counts of making false statements.

The grand jury also charged Patricia Anne Ewalt, a former Jefferson City resident who now lives in El Paso, Texas, in all four counts.

The grand jury charged that Ewalt, who will be 61 on Wednesday, and Druzenko, now 32, “knowingly and unlawfully entered into marriage for the purpose of evading a provision of the immigration laws of the United States” on June 22, 2007.

The 10-page indictment said Druzenko “attended college in Missouri, and elsewhere” on his student visa, and explains that his student status required him to “depart (the U.S.) within sixty days of completing or terminating study.”

But the indictment also explains the various steps and forms that can be used for a non-citizen visitor to stay in the U.S., by marrying a citizen.

“In about early 2007, with the assistance of Darya Chernova ... and at least one other person known to the Grand Jury, Druzenko began looking for and enlisting a United States citizen to marry him so that he could remain in the United States,” the grand jury charged. “They approached several persons and, in March of 2007, procured a marriage license (in Moniteau County) with one of the candidates. This individual later in the month declined to enter into a sham marriage.”

Druzenko was introduced to Ewalt in late March 2007 and, the indictment charged, “Ewalt was approached and asked to marry Druzenko” in April.

They “applied for a marriage license in Osage County ... on or about June 20, 2007,” and were married in Jefferson City on June 22.

Starting a week later, the first two of several federal forms were filed with the government, starting the process to change Druzenko’s status from “student” to “permanent resident.”

The indictment said the conspiracy began “at least as early as in or about January 2005.”

It listed three times before Druzenko met Ewalt that “a United States citizen known to the Grand Jury was approached and asked to marry Druzenko” — in February and March 2007, including the woman who applied for a marriage license but didn’t get married.

The indictment reported that, because of the alleged conspiracy and “as a result of various forms and materials submitted to the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) and other agencies, (Druzenko) was, on or about January 2, 2008, granted permanent resident status.”

Chernova, now 38 and living in Chandler, Ariz., was charged only with the conspiracy.

The indictment said Druzenko, Ewalt and Chernova, “aided and abetted by other persons known and unknown to the grand jury,” arranged the marriage, “knowingly” made false statements under oath and acted to “defraud” the U.S. Homeland Security department and the USCIS.

The two counts of making false statements involve Druzenko and Ewalt filing various forms in 2007, and again in 2009, giving their address as 109-C Jackson St. “when both defendants ... well knew that the two did not reside together” at that address.

Neither the news release nor the indictment spell out potential punishments for conviction of the charges.

But, Druzenko could lose his permanent resident status, and is scheduled for a federal detention hearing this week.

Chernova also is a Ukranian who came to the U.S. on a student visa and attended, among other schools, Jefferson City’s Lincoln University, where she played tennis.

The indictment announced Friday noted that, in 2005 and 2006, she had, “with the assistance of another person known to the grand jury, enlisted and secured a United States citizen to marry her so that she could remain in the United States.”

A charge filed last month by U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan and his staff in the St. Louis-based Eastern District of Missouri, accuses only Chernova of attempting to falsely procure naturalization and lying to an immigration official. She pleaded not guilty late last month.

In court documents and testimony in her St. Louis case, the federal prosecutors and agents said a Jefferson City lawyer, James Douglas Barding, offered $36,000 to Helias Catholic High School teacher Timothy Dunville, if he would marry Chernova.

Neither Barding nor Dunville have been charged.

Barding said Friday he could not comment on either case without consulting with his attorney.

Helias President Di Aur said Friday he only could say that Dunville resigned his jobs at Helias “for personal reasons.”

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Please review our Policies and Procedures before registering or commenting

News Tribune - comments