[Stop-traffic] News/US: 2 face charges in dancers' case

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/US: 2 face charges in dancers' case
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Jan 17 2001 - 09:01:00 EST

2 face charges in dancers' case
Stripping: Russian women were expecting cultural performances
By Sheila Toomey
Anchorage Daily News, January 10, 2000

A Chugiak man and a Russian are in jail today, charged with lying to get
seven Russian dancers into Alaska for "cultural" performances that turned
out to be stripping naked at a local nightclub.

Immigration agents arrested Tony Kennard of Chugiak on Tuesday afternoon on
a felony count of aiding and abetting preparation of false visa
applications for the seven women, who range in age from 16 to 30. Kennard
told the Immigration and Naturalization Service that he brought the women
to Alaska to perform Russian folk dances at a series of events in
Anchorage, Eagle River and Homer.

The day before, agents arrested Viktor Virchenko at Ted Stevens Anchorage
International Airport as he attempted to fly back to Russia from Anchorage
with three of the women.

The four others had been taken into custody Thursday night after INS agents
observed them dancing and accepting tips from customers at the Crazy Horse
on Gambell Street.

Like Kennard, Virchenko has been charged with a single count of lying about
the true nature of the women's visits to the United States, but an
affidavit filed by INS agent Stefanie Vetter suggests there's more to come.

So far the INS investigation has produced evidence that "these women and
others were brought to the United States for purposes other than exhibiting
their cultural heritage in the form of folk dances, but rather to be placed
in involuntary servitude and coerced into dancing for money," Vetter said.

The women described Virchenko as a dance instructor in Krasnodar, Russia, a
city of about 700,000 in southern Russia near the Black Sea. One of the
dancers, Anastassia Goudimova, said Virchenko first suggested in early
October that she find about 10 women who were willing to come to Alaska to
dance in folk festivals.

The women said they rehearsed folk dances and "contemporary rhythm dances"
with Virchenko at his dance studio.

Once they arrived in Alaska, they were taken to the Crazy Horse, Vetter's
affidavit says. "They further stated that they were shocked when told they
would be dancing in a strip club."

At first the women performed only Russian folk dances, clothed in
traditional costumes. They would then change into "stripper clothes" and
circulate among the patrons performing table dances for tips.

Within days, "they were encouraged by Kennard and Virchenko to dance
topless and then nude," the affidavit says.

"Management for the Crazy Horse confirmed that the women were dancing for
tips and all the money was collected by Tony Kennard," the affidavit says.

Robert Eddy, director of the INS for Alaska, said last week that Crazy
Horse management appears to have done the paperwork required of employers
hiring foreigners and the club has not been charged with any violation. The
age of at least one of the dancers appears to have been misrepresented to
the club, he said.

The women were never taken to perform at any genuine cultural event,
according to INS.

Kennard told INS he was starting a promoting business and wanted to book
the women or similar dancers at events such as the Alaska State Fair. The
only state license listed for Kennard is for a business called Northern
Exposures Photography.

The women lived at Kennard's Leprechaun Drive home, the affidavit says.
According to investigators, Kennard or Virchenko kept the women's passports
and airline tickets.

Several of the women are considered minors, Eddy said. The three found with
Virchenko when he was arrested were 16, 17 and 20.

All seven of the women are considered victims, Eddy said, and are being
looked after by INS. The four who were detained and flown to Seattle last
week have been released and will remain in the United States as material
witness in the case against the two men, he said.

The three with Virchenko at the airport are also free, he said.

Eddy described the charges against both men as "initial." Virchenko has
made several trips to the United State as a visitor and was in Anchorage in
November, he said.

Kennard told the INS he put the dancers to work at the Crazy Horse only
after folk dancing plans fell through, but INS investigators said he
approached the club long before the women arrived in the United States.

"We don't know if it's part of something bigger," Eddy said. "We're still
investigating. It's the kind of case that recent federal legislation
addresses in terms of worker exploitation and trafficking in women and
children. It has the attention of the highest levels of the Department of
Justice in Washington."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Cooper said Kennard is scheduled to make an
initial appearance in federal court sometime today.
Melanie Orhant
Stop-Traffic Moderator

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