State Employee Among Those Indicted for Marriage Fraud Conspiracy
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a state employee is among three persons indicted for their roles in a conspiracy to commit marriage fraud in order to evade immigration laws.
Oleksandr Nikolayevich Druzenko, also known as “Alex” or “Sasha,” 32, of Jefferson City, Mo., Patricia Anne Ewalt, 60, of El Paso, Texas, and Darya Chernova, 38, of Chandler, Ariz., were charged in a four-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Jefferson City on Oct. 3, 2012. The indictment was unsealed and made public today following Druzenko’s arrest and initial court appearance.
Druzenko, who is employed at the Missouri Office of Administration in Jefferson City, is a Ukrainian national who entered the United States on a student visa in August 2004 and attended college in Missouri and elsewhere. Druzenko remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing.
According to the indictment, Druzenko and Ewalt (a U.S. citizen) were married on June 22, 2007, 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.
Chernova, a friend of Druzenko’s, is also a Ukrainian who entered the United States on a student visa. In 2005 and 2006, the indictment says, she enlisted a U.S. citizen to marry her so that she could remain in the United States. She and another person (who is not identified in the indictment) 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.
In March 2007, Druzenko was introduced to Ewalt. Chernova and at least one other person allegedly enlisted Ewalt to marry Druzenko so he could remain in the United States.
Druzenko, Ewalt and Chernova are each charged with participating in a conspiracy to commit marriage fraud in order to evade immigration laws.
In addition to the conspiracy, Druzenko and Ewalt are charged together in one count of marriage fraud and two counts of making false statements on immigration forms.
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) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.