Department of Justice Seal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CRT

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2001

(202) 514-2008

WWW.USDOJ.GOV

TDD (202) 514-1888


FOUR INDICTED IN ALASKA FOR LURING RUSSIAN GIRLS AND WOMEN TO

U.S. AND ENSLAVING THEM IN A STRIP CLUB

Federal Action is First Under New Statute
to Stop Trafficking in Humans


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Four people were charged today in Alaska with conspiring to enslave Russian women and girls in a strip club in Anchorage, the Justice Department announced. This is the first case prosecuted under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, enacted by Congress in October 2000 to stop the practice of trafficking in humans.

Victor Virchenko, Pavel Agafonov, Tony Kennard and Rachel Kennard were charged under a 23-count indictment with conspiring to lure six Russian women and girls to Alaska to enslave them. Virchenko is a Russian national, Agafonov is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and Tony and Rachel Kennard are U.S. citizens. The four defendants were previously indicted for falsely representing to immigration authorities that the Russian women would be in the United States for a cultural exchange.

Today's superceding indictment charges that the defendants recruited the females under false pretenses - to perform Russian folk dances in a cultural festival - only to force them into servitude once they arrived in the United States. The charges against the defendants include six counts of forced labor [18 U.S.C. 1589], for coercing the victims to perform in a strip club by employing a scheme that relied on threats, isolation, and confiscation of the victims' passports, visas, and plane tickets.

The Russian victims, who were brought to the United States in December 2000, were freed from the defendants by the INS in January 2001. The women and girls have temporary legal immigration status and are being housed in a safe location.

"Slavery and trafficking violate the American promise of freedom," said Robert C. Bundy, the United States Attorney for the District of Alaska. "We will vigorously enforce our anti-slavery laws against those who try to exploit others."

The indictment also charges the defendants with kidnapping, transportation of minors for illegal sexual activity, and visa fraud. Additionally, Mr. Virchenko is charged with witness intimidation. If convicted of all counts, the defendants could face sentences of life in prison.

The indictment is the result of a coordinated effort of the National Worker Exploitation Task Force, an interagency effort that brings together different agencies to combat the problem of trafficking in persons and modern-day slavery in the United States. The case, which was investigated jointly by the INS, FBI, and the Anchorage Police Department, is being prosecuted by the Criminal Section of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Alaska.

The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 increased criminal penalties and broadened prosecutors' authority in trafficking cases to reach modern forms of slavery. The Act also gives victims better access to services such as shelters, counseling and medical care, and it provides a means for alien victims to stay in the United States and assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers.

Individuals can report other cases of trafficking or slavery to the National Worker Exploitation Task Force complaint line, at 1-888-428-7581. More information about the Task Force can be found at: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/crim/tpwetf.htm

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