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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Missouri

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Jefferson City Attorney Pleads Guilty to 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 pleaded guilty in federal court to enlisting a U.S. citizen to marry a Ukrainian national (with whom he was having an affair) so that she could remain in the United States and seek citizenship.


James Douglas Barding, 62, of Jefferson City, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Matt J. Whitworth on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, to participating in the marriage fraud conspiracy.


Barding, an attorney and a married U.S. citizen, had a long-running affair with a Ukrainian national who entered the United States on a student visa. She formerly lived a couple of blocks from the Jefferson City residence where Barding and his wife resided but has since moved out of the state; their two children live with Barding.


Barding admitted that he met with the Ukrainian national and another co-conspirator (who had agreed to marry her before her visa expired) on April 20, 2010, the day before they were scheduled to be questioned by representatives of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. The purpose of the meeting was to go over their testimony and Barding advised them to stick to their false stories regarding their fraudulent marriage. On April 21, 2010, Barding gave them a ride to the interview in St. Louis, Mo., where the Ukrainian national made false statements with Barding’s knowledge.


Soon afterward, Barding assured co-conspirator that, if they stayed together and stuck to their stories, they would not get caught with their plan to deceive the government, and she could remain in the United States.


Barding also admitted that he told his co-conspirator in late 2004 that, if he agreed to marry the Ukrainian national, he would not have to live with her and could get divorced after she gained sufficient status to remain in the United States. They were married on March 13, 2005, in Cape Girardeau, Mo., so that persons they knew in Cole County, Mo., would not be likely to find out about the marriage. Barding flew to Cape Girardeau and acted as a witness to their wedding.


Although they never lived together, according to the plea agreement, they each filled out forms falsely claiming they shared a Jefferson City apartment. She also submitted documents that purported to show they shared accounts and bills when, in truth, the majority of the submissions were in name only and no accounts or bills were actually shared. The only purpose for their marriage was so that she could evade immigration laws and remain in the United States with Barding. At various times she made material false statements regarding her address and the true purpose of her marriage, which resulted in her being granted conditional permanent resident status on Nov. 27, 2008.


Approximately nine months and 16 days after the fraudulent marriage, a child was born to Barding and the Ukrainian national. A second child was born to them the following year, which she falsely claimed on immigration forms and on the birth certificate was the biological child of her husband in the fraudulent marriage, to prevent federal officials from suspecting the marriage was fraudulent.


Under federal statutes, Barding is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.


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), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Jefferson City, Mo., Police Department.

Updated August 5, 2015