Jefferson City Attorney Indicted for Marriage Fraud Conspiracy
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a Jefferson City, Mo., attorney has been indicted for his role in a conspiracy to commit marriage fraud in order to evade immigration laws.
James Douglas Barding, 60, of Jefferson City, was charged in a superseding indictment that was returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Jefferson City on April 24, 2013. The superseding indictment was unsealed and made public today in conjunction with Barding’s initial court appearance. Barding is a practicing attorney.
The superseding indictment adds Barding as a co-defendant with Oleksandr Nikolayevich Druzenko, also known as “Alex” or “Sasha,” 32, of Jefferson City, Patricia Anne Ewalt, 60, of El Paso, Texas, and Darya Chernova, 38, of Chandler, Ariz. Barding’s co-defendants were originally charged in an Oct. 3, 2012 federal indictment. The superseding indictment also includes additional charges against some of the defendants.
According to the indictment, Barding (a married U.S. citizen) was having an 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. Barding allegedly assisted Chernova to enlist a U.S. citizen to marry her so that she could remain in the United States.
Barding and Chernova were friends of Ewalt (a U.S. citizen) and Druzenko, a Ukrainian national who entered the United States on a student visa in August 2004 and attended college in Missouri and elsewhere. Druzenko is currently employed at the Missouri Office of Administration in Jefferson City.
Barding and Chernova allegedly assisted Druzenko in early 2007 to find a U.S. citizen to marry him so that he could remain in the United States and attempt to gain permanent resident status and potentially U.S. citizenship. They approached several persons, the indictment says, including one person with whom Druzenko procured a marriage license but who then declined to enter the sham marriage.
According to the indictment, Druzenko was introduced to Ewalt in March 2007. Druzenko and Ewalt were married on June 22, 2007, the indictment says, for the sole purpose of allowing Druzenko to remain in the United States. Under his student visa, Druzenko would have had to depart the United States within 60 days after graduation. Because of his marriage to Ewalt, Druzenko obtained lawful permanent resident status on Jan. 2, 2008.
Barding, Druzenko, Ewalt and Chernova are charged with participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States, to commit marriage fraud, and to gain resident status and citizenship through false statements.
In addition to the conspiracy, Barding, Druzenko, Ewalt and Chernova are charged together in one count of marriage fraud. Druzenko and Ewalt are also charged together in three counts that are related to making false statements on immigration forms.
Barding, Druzenko and Chernova are also charged together in one count of attempting to unlawfully procure citizenship or naturalization. This charge is related to the unsuccessful attempt in early 2007.
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.