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NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


JOHN F. WOOD


Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html


OCTOBER 19, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


THREE RUSSIAN NATIONALS PLEAD GUILTY

TO VISA FRAUD-RELATED CHARGES


            SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that three Russian nationals involved with a Branson, Mo., company that provides workers to area hotels have pleaded guilty in federal court to charges related to attempting to fraudulently obtain visas for temporary foreign workers.


            Serguei Choukline, 48, and his wife, Irina Choukline, 44, both of whom were born in Russia and now reside in Springfield, Mo., each pleaded guilty in separate appearances today before U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge James C. England. Anna Bauer, 28, who was born in Russia and resides in Falls Church, Virginia, pleaded guilty on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2007.


            Serguei Choukline was a director and Irina Choukline was the secretary of Midwest Hotel Management Corporation, 1316 W. Hwy. 76 in Branson. Bauer was the original “day to day” face of Midwest with regard to the recruiting, placement and transportation of seasonal workers and also had payroll responsibilities.


            This case involves a federal investigation into the use of temporary worker visas. The temporary worker program is designed to allow foreign workers to provide labor for certain industries after it has been determined that there is a legitimate need for the work and that there are an insufficient number of citizens or other legal aliens to provide the labor.


            Midwest Hotel Management submitted 18 foreign labor visa applications containing numerous false statements in an attempt to obtain visas for foreign workers.


            By pleading guilty today, Serguei Choukline admitted that, from May 1, 2002, to November 2006, he participated in a conspiracy to provide false documentation in support of foreign labor visa applications. Irina Choukline admitted that she assisted in filing fraudulent statements with the Department of Homeland Security in order to obtain temporary visas on behalf of alien foreign workers. Bauer admitted that she concealed her knowledge of fraudulent overtime payroll records.        


            Under federal statutes, Serguei Choukline could be subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, Serguei Choukline consents to being deported from the United States.


            Irina Choukline could be subject to a sentence of up to six months in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $1,000. Bauer could be subject to a sentence of up to three years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $1,000. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.


            Co-defendant Monica A. Lopez, 25, a citizen of Mexico residing in the Branson area, pleaded guilty on June 30, 2006, to aiding and abetting visa fraud. Lopez, who was director of human resources for Midwest Hotel Management, admitted that the firm submitted applications for foreign labor visas containing numerous false statements.


            This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David A. Barnes and Bruce Clark. It was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General and IRS-Criminal Investigation.


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This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html