Feds charge JC attorney, again, in marriage scheme

A Jefferson City attorney, already facing federal charges, has been indicted by a federal grand jury for enlisting a U.S. citizen to marry a Ukrainian national, who is also charged in the indictment, so that she could remain in the United States and seek citizenship.

Officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said James Barding, 60, and Darya Chernova, 38, of Chandler, Ariz., were charged in a four-count indictment that was returned this week under seal by a federal grand jury in Jefferson City.

That indictment was unsealed and made public Thursday upon Barding’s arrest and initial court appearance.

Both Barding and Chernova were previously indicted on similar charges related to a different marriage fraud conspiracy in a separate case on April 24.

The status of that case is not effected by the more recent charges contained in this week’s federal indictment.

Court documents show Barding had a long-running affair with Chernova, a Ukrainian national who entered the United States on a student visa and attended Lincoln University before earning a master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Chernova formerly lived a couple of blocks from the Jefferson City residence where Barding and his wife resided. She has moved to Arizona and the two children live with Barding.

Authorities said Barding and Chernova approached at least one U.S. citizen to marry her so that she could remain in the United States. The citizen agreed to marry her and the two were married in March 2005 in Cape Girardeau County at a ceremony attended by Barding. The purpose of the arranged marriage was to allow Chernova to assert that she was married to a U.S. citizen so that she could remain in the country. Barding told the citizen that he and Chernova could get a divorce after she had gained sufficient status to allow her to remain in the United States unmarried.

The indictment shows Chernova and the citizen filed paperwork with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Chernova was granted conditional permanent resident status in November 2008 which was later extended. This allowed Chernova to remain in the United States, attend school and work.

Chernova and the citizen claimed to be living together, but in reality, however, Chernova never resided with “TD.” Chernova and “TD” allegedly opened accounts or placed Chernova’s name on materials to give the appearance that she was living with “TD.”

In December 2005, more than nine months after she married the citizen, Chernova gave birth to a child. Barding was named as the father and he provided support for the child. In September 2009 Chernova had a second child and falsely claimed on the birth certificate, and during a hearing under oath, that the citizen she married was the father. The citizen later said he was not the father of the second child, which was backed up by DNA testing. Barding eventually admitted that he was the father and in October 2011, Barding was found by court order to be the father of the child and the birth certificate was changed.

Authorities claim Barding and Chernova, along with others, committed the crime of conspiracy to defraud the United States in early 2007, in that they began looking for and enlisting a U.S. citizen to marry a male friend so that he could remain in the United States In March 2007, they procured a marriage license with one of the candidates. This individual later declined to enter the sham marriage. However, Chernova and Barding enlisted another U.S. citizen who did agree to enter into a marry. This scheme is the subject of a conspiracy charge against Barding and Chernova in the April 24 federal indictment.

In addition to the conspiracy, Chernova is charged with make a false statement relating to naturalization and with unlawfully procuring naturalization. Barding is also charged with making false statements under oath in an immigration matter.

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