Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeny Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Patricia Menges, the New York Asylum Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), and Jason J. Molina, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Newark Field Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced the unsealing of two indictments charging nine individuals in two respective schemes to prepare and submit fraudulent asylum applications, affidavits and other documents to USCIS, and to coach asylum seekers to lie under oath during immigration proceedings.
ILONA DZHAMGAROVA and ARTHUR ARCADIAN, two immigration attorneys based in Brooklyn, New York, and their associate, IGOR REZNK, were charged in one indictment with conspiracy to commit asylum fraud (the “Dzhamgarova Indictment”). The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil. All three defendants were taken into custody today. DZHAMGAROVA and ARCADIAN are expected to be presented in the Southern District of Florida. REZNIK is expected to be presented in the District of Maryland.
In a separate indictment, YURY MOSHA, ULADZIMIR DANSKOI, JULIA GREENBERG, ALEKSEI KMIT, TYMUR SHCHERBYNA, and KATERYNA LYSYUCHENKO were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to commit asylum fraud. That case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Alison J. Nathan. Five defendants were taken into custody today. MOSHA and DANSKOI are expected to be presented in the Southern District of New York today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker. GREENBERG and KMIT are expected to be presented in the Districts of Colorado and Idaho, respectively. LYSYUCHENKO was arrested in Milan, Italy, and is pending extradition.
U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “Fear of violence and persecution, be it on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation, is a daily reality for too many across the world. To exploit and profit from the fears of the victims of persecution is cynical; to do so through lies and for money is fraud. As alleged, these defendants engaged in a scheme to deceive asylum officers of the United States through carefully scripted lies, trading on deeply held concerns for actual victims of persecution in an effort to obtain money and illegal immigration documents. Asylum fraud was not merely a means of lining these defendants’ pockets. It is a burden on the asylum system and a hindrance to those legitimately in need of our country’s protection.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “The elaborate deceptions allegedly created by the groups of attorneys and managers in this investigation are astounding. As we allege, they told their clients to lie on asylum applications and under oath about being persecuted in their home countries, and they even created ghost-written blogs to bolster those false claims. As these defendants will learn, engaging in this kind of conduct has grave consequences. Creating false narratives to conceal the identities of people seeking asylum in the United States threatens our national security, and we will continue to address it accordingly.”
USCIS New York Asylum Director Patricia Menges said: “USCIS is committed to finding and stopping those who want to cheat the immigration system, and preserving it for those who qualify for immigration benefits.”
Special Agent-in-Charge, HSI, Newark Jason J. Molina said: “Under the guise of fictitious stories of persecution to gain asylum, these individuals allegedly exploited their fellow Russians for financial gain. Their arrest should serve as a warning to others of his ilk that the cooperative efforts of law enforcement agencies will track and persecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
According to the allegations in the Indictments:
The charges in these two Indictment arise from an investigation into two New York City immigration firms, the “Dzhamgarova Firm” and “Russian America,” which helped their respective clients – primarily aliens from Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States – seek visas, asylum, citizenship, and other forms of legal status in the United States. Among other things, both firms advised certain of their clients in the manner in which they were most likely to obtain asylum in this country, fully understanding that those clients did not legitimately qualify for asylum. The firms also prepared and submitted to USCIS clients’ fraudulent Form I-589 asylum applications, asylum affidavits – statements of an asylum applicant’s personal history and claimed basis for asylum, often including allegations of past persecution – and related supporting documentation. Members and associates of each firm also coached certain clients to lie under oath during interviews conducted by USCIS Asylum Officers and provided legal representation to their clients during various immigration proceedings.
The Dzhamgarova Indictment
Between November 2018 and December 2021, ILONA DZHAMGAROVA, an immigration attorney, maintained the Dzhamgarova Firm, based in Brooklyn, New York. Among other things, DZHAMGAROVA advised clients to seek asylum by falsely claiming that they were members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (“LGBTQ”) community who suffered persecution in their native countries, when DZHAMGAROVA fully understood that these clients were not members of that community and suffered no such persecution. Additionally, DZHAMGAROVA and her husband, ARTHUR ARCADIAN, also an attorney, prepared and submitted clients’ fraudulent asylum applications and affidavits to USCIS, under penalty of perjury, fully understanding that these documents at times contained material falsehoods. DZHAMGAROVA and REZNIK also coached certain clients to lie in asylum interviews conducted by USCIS asylum officers and represented clients during immigration proceedings.
The Dhzamgarova Firm also employed writers and bloggers, including IGOR REZNIK, who knowingly concocted and drafted clients’ fraudulent asylum affidavits so that they could be submitted as part of clients’ asylum applications. These affidavits, which were designed to support clients’ persecution claims, conveyed purported aspects of clients’ personal histories that were filled with falsehoods, including events and incidents of alleged persecution that were completely manufactured by REZNIK.
The Mosha Indictment
YURY MOSHA and ULADZIMIR DANSKOI operated and maintained Russian America’s Manhattan and Brooklyn offices, respectively. Each advised and aided clients to seek asylum under fraudulent pretenses. Among other things, MOSHA encouraged certain clients to establish and maintain online blogs that were critical of the clients’ home countries, as a way to generate a claim that, based on the clients’ invented political opinions, it was unsafe for them to return to their native countries. MOSHA did so understanding that the clients’ decision to blog was prompted not by their own idea or initiative, but by MOSHA’s instruction, and that the clients’ motive for blogging was to contrive a basis for asylum, rather than to publicly express a sincerely held opinion. MOSHA also understood that, in some instances, these clients lacked the desire, topical knowledge, journalistic ability, and/or technical expertise to write blogposts and maintain these blogs. In those instances, MOSHA connected some Russian America clients with TYMUR SHCHERBYNA, a Ukraine-based purported journalist, with the understanding that, in exchange for a fee, SHCHERBYNA would and did maintain and ghost-write the clients’ blogs. MOSHA also personally prepared and submitted clients’ asylum applications and related paperwork under penalty of perjury, knowing that these documents contained material falsehoods. ALEKSEI KMIT, who worked directly under MOSHA in Russian America’s Manhattan Office, and who understood that certain clients were seeking asylum under fraudulent pretenses, served as a liaison between these clients and Russian America employees and at times advised these clients regarding their fraudulent applications.
DANSKOI performed similar functions as MOSHA, but in Russian America’s Brooklyn Office. For example, DANSKOI advised one Russian America client, a confidential FBI source (the “Source”), to seek asylum on the fraudulent basis that the client was persecuted in Ukraine for being a gay male, when in fact DANSKOI fully understood that the Source was a heterosexual male who suffered no such persecution. DANSKOI also advised the Source on how to most effectively advance this fraudulent claim.
Both MOSHA and DANSKOI referred certain clients to KATERYNA LYSYUCHENKO – an Italy-based associate, who helped certain Russian America clients draft fraudulent Asylum Affidavits by, among other things, sending them template Asylum Affidavits to model off of, and advising clients about what information to include in their affidavits, understanding these documents to be fraudulent – and JULIA GREENBERG, a New York immigration attorney, who coached clients to lie to Asylum Officers and provided legal representation to such clients during immigration proceedings. For example, GREENBERG, understanding that the Source was a heterosexual male who did not suffer persecution in his home country, prepared the Source for questioning by an Asylum Officer and advised the Source how to falsely answer certain anticipated questions from the Asylum Officer.
* * *
DZHAMGAROVA, 44, and ARCADIAN, 42, both of Brooklyn, NY; and REZNIK, 39, of New York, NY, are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
MOSHA, 45, DANSKOI, 54, and GREENBERG, 41, each of Staten Island, New York; KMIT, 30, of Boise, Idaho; SHCHERBYNA, 35, of Ukraine, and LYSYUCHENKO, 39, of Italy, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to commit asylum fraud.
The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.
Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI’s New York Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations, USCIS New York Asylum Office and Fraud Detection and National Security unit, and thanked United States Customs and Border Protection and the New York City Police Department for their assistance.