Jefferson City Attorney Indicted for Marriage Fraud Conspiracy
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Jefferson City, Mo., attorney 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.
James Douglas Barding, 60, of Jefferson City, and Darya Chernova, 38, of Chandler, Ariz., were charged in a four-count indictment that was returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Jefferson City on May 22, 2013. That indictment was unsealed and made public today 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, 2013. The status of that case is not effected by the more recent charges contained in the May 22, 2013 federal indictment.
According to the indictment, Barding (an attorney and a married U.S. citizen) 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.
Barding and Chernova allegedly approached at least one U.S. citizen to marry her so that she could remain in the United States. The citizen (“TD”) agreed to marry her, the indictment says, and “TD” and Chernova were married on March 13, 2005 in Cape Girardeau County, Mo., at a ceremony attended by Barding. The purpose of the arranged marriage, according to the indictment, was to allow Chernova to assert that she was married to a U.S. citizen so that she would be permitted to remain in the United States. “TD” and Chernova allegedly entered into the marriage for the purpose of evading a provision of the immigration laws. Barding allegedly told “TD” that he and Chernova could get a divorce after she had gained sufficient status to allow her to remain in the United States unmarried.
During the conspiracy, the indictment alleges, Chernova and “TD” filed paperwork with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); as a result, Chernova was granted conditional permanent resident status on Nov. 27, 2008, which was later extended. As a result of these filings, Chernova was allowed to remain in the United States and permitted to attend school and to work. From time to time, Chernova and “TD” would have to file additional paperwork or attend hearings, meetings or tests in support of her applications for conditional permanent resident status, lawful permanent resident status, and eventual citizenship in the United States, and also to allow her to remain in the United States and work.
Among the information provided by Chernova and “TD,” the indictment says, they claimed to be living together; 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 “TD”) 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, the indictment says, and falsely claimed on the birth certificate, on paperwork filed with USCIS, and during a hearing under oath, that “TD” was the father. She claimed to have not had sexual relations with anyone other than “TD.” Later, “TD” denied being the father of the second child. DNA testing revealed that he was not the father, the indictment says, and Barding admitted that he was the father. On Oct. 18, 2011, Barding was found by order of the court to be the father of the child and the birth certificate was changed.
According to the indictment, 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 (“OD”) so that he could remain in the United States without having to depart, and also to attempt to gain permanent resident status and potentially United States citizenship. They approached several persons and, in March 2007, procured a marriage license with one of the candidates. This individual later in the month declined to enter the sham marriage. However, Chernova and Barding enlisted another U.S. citizen who did marry “OD.” This alleged scheme, which is cited in the introduction of the current indictment, is the subject of a conspiracy charge in the April 24, 2012 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.
Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony P. Gonzalez. It was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Jefferson City, Mo., Police Department.