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Alleged Immigration Fraud Leads to Federal Charges Against Attorney

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According to a recent indictment from the US Attorney's office in St. Louis, Missouri, a married man met a woman from the Ukraine who was studying engineering at Lincoln University on a tennis scholarship. Fearing she would have to leave the country once her student visa expired, the married man offered another man who was already engaged to someone else $36,000 to marry her and allow her to stay in the U.S. The groom’s gilted fiancée finds out about the deal and brought the entire plan down by tipping off federal officials.

St. Louis federal officials have charged Dar’ya Chernova, 38, of Ukraine with attempting to falsely procure naturalization and lying to an immigration official. According to the court’s testimony and documents, James Douglas Barding, a lawyer in Jefferson City offered $36,000 to a high school teacher named Timothy Dunville in exchange for marrying Chernova. It is not clear whether this transaction ended up occurring. Barding was “intimately involved” with Chernova while she was in school and would later graduate from the University of Missouri with a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering. Chernova and Dunville ended up getting married by a municipal judge in Jackson, Mo on March 2005. Barding served as a witness and filed paperwork with immigration officials so that she could stay.

Dunville’s former fiancée, who was pregnant with his child, then tipped off officials which brought their scheme to an end. Chernova was named on an indictment on June 21st that was sealed until her arrest in November. At the time, Chernova was working in Arizona on research for the Department of Defense specializing in micro-air vehicles. Barding represented Dunville in court for Chapter 7 bankruptcy filed in 2005 and he also represented Dunville in a child custody case in October of 2005 involving his former fiancée. In a 2010 interview, Chernova allegedly lied about the father of her second child claiming it was Dunville even though DNA tests reportedly showed Barding was the father of both.  Chernova pleaded not guilty last week to chargers and her attorney declined to comment on any case specifics. Neither Dunville nor Barding have been charged but Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Ferrell is handling the case and says it is an ongoing investigation.

This is not the first time that Missouri attorneys have run afoul of federal immigration law.  In 2007, the head of the St. Louis office of Missouri’s public defender system was sentenced to a year of probation for marriage fraud and had his law license suspended for two years. After his case was resolved, he and two others involved resigned from their positions.

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