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Press Release

Ukrainian National Pleads Guilty to Marriage Fraud Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Ukrainian national pleaded guilty in federal court today to her role in a marriage fraud conspiracy aimed at enabling her to remain in the United States and seek citizenship.


Darya Chernova, 40, a citizen of Ukraine who currently resides in Chandler, Ariz., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Matt J. Whitworth. Co-defendant James Douglas Barding, 62, of Jefferson City, pleaded guilty on Aug. 5, 2015, to participating in the marriage fraud conspiracy.


Chernova, who entered the United States on a student visa, formerly lived a couple of blocks from the Jefferson City residence where Barding and his wife resided. Barding, an attorney and a married U.S. citizen, had a long-running affair with Chernova; their two children now live with Barding.


By pleading guilty today, Chernova admitted that she falsely named another person, who was her legal husband, as the father of her child on a birth certificate in 2009. In reality, Barding was the biological father. DNA testing confirmed that Chernova’s legal husband was not the father, and Barding was eventually awarded legal custody of the child.


Chernova and her legal husband never lived together. The only purpose for Chernova’s marriage to a U.S. citizen was so that she could evade immigration laws and remain in the United States with Barding.


On two occasions during 2010, by agreement with Barding and with his full knowledge and advice, Chernova appeared before an officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and falsely testified under oath that her legal husband was the father of the baby, even though she knew that the father was Barding. She also testified upon Barding’s advice that her legal residence was with her husband. These statements made by Chernova as to both parentage and residence were relevant to her pending citizenship application.


Under federal statutes, Chernova and Barding are each subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.


            Today’s guilty plea may have consequences with respect to Chernova’s immigration status because this is considered a removable offense. Removal and other immigration consequences are the subject of a separate proceeding; however, because Chernova is pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, removal is presumptively mandatory.


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 17, 2015