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Document and Benefit Fraud
01/13/2009

22 charged with massive international Visa scheme

Washington, D.C. - A 74-count indictment, which charged 22 foreign nationals and U.S. citizens for massive immigration-related fraud, resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and its partner agencies.

According to the indictment, since March 2001, the defendants and co-conspirators carried out a conspiracy involving visa and asylum fraud, marriage fraud, making fraudulent statements under oath, and filing fraudulent documents to obtain foreign labor visas for hundreds of alien employees. Some visa petitions were submitted seeking to bring in substantially more alien workers than what client hotels or businesses had contracted for or needed, and that most of the alien workers brought in through the fraudulent scheme were contracted out to hotels or businesses other than those listed on their visa and were working in states other than Virginia.

"Today's charges reflect the law enforcement community's steadfast commitment to aggressively target the perpetrators of document and benefit fraud," said Mark McGraw, Acting Special Agent in Charge for ICE's Office of Investigations in Washington, D.C. "Schemes such as these pose a significant threat to the United States and its citizens and cannot go unchallenged."

As cited in the indictment, the aliens were encouraged or induced to enter or reside in the United States, and transported and shielded from detection for commercial advantage and private financial gain.

Today's announcement is a result of a joint investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the U.S. State Department-Bureau of Diplomatic Security; the U.S. Department of Labor; the Internal Revenue Service; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Norfolk Field Office; the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; and the Virginia Beach Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Joseph DePadilla and Stephen Haynie are prosecuting the cases for the United States.

The individuals charged are: Piotr Baravik, age 27, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in Belarus; Charles Bond, age 37, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in the United States; Sheryl Brown, age 37, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in Jamaica; Ryan Bulkley, age 24, of Richmond, Virginia, born in the United States; Jekaterina Cerednicenko, a/k/a "Katrina Bond," age 27 of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in Latvia; Viktorija Cudnovska, a/k/a "Victoria Webb," age 27, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in Latvia; Maryia Halushkina, age 27, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in Belarus; Vahe Harutyunyan, age 34, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in Armenia; Dzmitry Krasautsau, age 28, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in Belarus; Viktar Krus, age 28, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in Belarus; Katsiaryna Kukharchuk, age 23, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in Belarus; Polina Kulesh, age 23, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in Kazakhstan; Otis Martin age 48, of Suffolk, Virginia, born in the United States; Jana Mizakova, age 25, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in Slovakia; Anastassiya Nagibina, age 23, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in Kazakhstan; Inna Palkova, age 22, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in Russia; Patricia Pochtaruk, age 53, of Cape Coral, Florida, born in the United States; Ksenia Stekolstsikova, age 29, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in Estonia; Janos Tamas, age 30, of St. Augustine, Florida, born in Hungary; Gabor Teglasi, age 38, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, born in Hungary; Ivan Ukolov, age 25, of Saint Charles, Illinois, born in Russia; and Dana Whitney, age 36, of Fort Meyers, Florida, born in the United States.

The charges announced today are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Benefit fraud is the knowing and willful misrepresentation of material fact on a petition or application to gain an immigrant benefit, while document fraud is the manufacturing, counterfeiting, alternation, sale, and/or use of identity documents and other fraudulent documents to circumvent immigration laws or for other criminal activity.

Document fraud is a serious problem and is a common element of many different crimes. Individuals and criminal enterprises often use fraudulent documents to obtain drivers' licenses and Social Security cards. Traffickers and alien smugglers use these documents to facilitate movement into and within the United States and they are also used to shield illegal aliens from detection within our society. Fraudulent documents may be used to obtain financial benefits and entitlements intended for US citizens or lawful permanent residents and to obtain unauthorized employment.