‘Marriage fraud’ cases continue

Darya Chernova has one less federal lawsuit to worry about, after U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan and his staff last week asked the federal District Court in Eastern Missouri to dismiss their case against her that they filed last January.

Chernova, a Ukranian national who now is 38 and living in Chandler, Ariz., had been charged with attempting to falsely procure naturalization and lying to an immigration official.

But she still is a defendant in two other cases pending in the federal court’s Western District, along with Jefferson City lawyer James Douglas (Doug) Barding, now 60.

Barding has referred requests for comment to his attorney, Christopher A. Slusher, Columbia, who has not, yet, provided any comment.

Both cases allege a marriage fraud conspiracy in Missouri, involving two different marriages.

Chernova and Barding are defendants in both remaining cases, while two others are defendants in one of the cases: Patricia Anne Ewalt, now 61, a former

Jefferson City resident who now lives in El Paso, Texas, and Oleksandr Nikolayevich Druzenko, now 33 and a Ukranian national living in Jefferson City and working in the state auditor’s office.

Both the soon-to-be-ended Eastern District case and the most-recently-revealed Western District case, which was filed May 22 and announced last week, focus on the reported March 13, 2005, marriage in Cape Girardeau between Chernova and a U.S. citizen identified in last week’s 15-page indictment only as “T.D.”

But court documents and earlier testimony in the St. Louis case said Barding had offered $38,000 to Helias Catholic High School teacher Timothy Dunville, if he would marry Chernova.

Dunville — who was engaged to someone else at the time — so far has not been charged in the cases, and since has resigned from Helias.

The older Western District case that includes four defendants is focused on the reported June 22, 2007, marriage in Jefferson City, between Ewalt and Druzenko.

The first few pages of both indictments detail the federal rules allowing citizens of other countries to come to the United States on a temporary basis for education, who must leave the United States within 60 days after graduation, unless granted an extension.

Both indictments begin by noting “an alien may obtain lawful permanent resident status, (‘green card’) in several ways, including through the valid marriage to a United States citizen.”

Both indictments then explain why the alleged conspiracy was an attempt to get around those rules, by violating various federal laws.

Until Callahan’s office moved to dismiss its case, the existence of similar cases in different federal districts — with different prosecutors and judges — could have posed some issues for prosecutors and defense lawyers alike.

However, Don Ledford, spokesman for Kansas City-based Western District U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson, said: “Our offices communicate with each other whenever there are investigations that overlap our districts.”

If Dickinson’s staff wins convictions in the two remaining cases, Chernova and Druzenko could lose their rights to stay in the United States.

And prison sentences also are a possibility for all who have been charged.

Right now, those charges are:

• Barding — conspiracy, 2 counts; marriage fraud, 1 count; attempt to unlawfully procure citizenship or naturalization, 1 count; swearing a false statement in an Immigration matter, 1 count.

• Chernova — conspiracy, 2 counts; marriage fraud, 1 count; making a false statement relating to naturalization, 1 count; attempt to unlawfully procure citizenship or naturalization, 2 counts; swearing a false statement in an Immigration matter, 1 count.

• Ewalt — conspiracy, 1 count; marriage fraud, 1 count; making a false statement relating to naturalization, 2 counts; swearing a false statement in an Immigration matter, 1 count.

• Druzenko — conspiracy, 1 count; marriage fraud, 1 count; making a false statement relating to naturalization, 2 counts; swearing a false statement in an Immigration matter, 1 count; attempt to unlawfully procure citizenship or naturalization, 1 count.

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