Investigators say e-mails reveal Russian dancers plot

Posted: Sunday, January 21, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Federal investigators have recovered e-mail correspondence that they say indicates how a Chugiak man plotted with a Russian dance instructor to bring Russian women to Anchorage and turn them into strippers.

Tony Kennard, 38, is one of four people indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on conspiracy and visa fraud charges. Agents for the Immigration and Naturalization Service continue to investigate possible additional charges, including sexual trafficking, officials said. A civil rights specialist from the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., has been assigned to the case as co-prosecutor.

Kennard and a Russian national, Viktor Virchenko, were arrested two weeks ago on a preliminary count. The indictment added Kennard's wife, Rachel Kennard, and a second Russian to the list of defendants.

Pavel Paris Agafonov, a Russian who lives in Atlanta, was arrested by the FBI on Wednesday in Philadelphia, Cooper said. He was released after posting his Atlanta home as a bond and is scheduled to appear in court in Anchorage next week, he said.

According to the INS, the four defendants hatched a scheme in October to ''lure Russian female dancers to the United States under the pretext that they would perform native and folk dances of the Krasnodar region of Russia in cultural festivals.''

Kennard worked through chambers of commerce in Eagle River and Palmer to get letters from the mayor of Anchorage and the city manager of Palmer endorsing a cultural exchange involving Russian folk dancers.

Virchenko is a well-known dance instructor in Krasnodar, a Russian city near the Black Sea, the indictment says. ''He headed a folkloric dance troupe which frequently toured Russia and other countries performing.''

The charges say Virchenko and Kennard were brought together by Agafonov, who operates ''an Internet Web site which advertised 'Russian brides' and 'escorts.'''

Virchenko had the credentials to recruit dancers, and Kennard had ''connections with strip clubs in Anchorage,'' the indictment says.

The women were given tourist visas that did not permit them to work.

Kennard and Virchenko told the women, and INS, that they would be dancing in a folk festival called ''Russian Winter in Alaska,'' which the indictment said does not exist.

When they arrived, they were told the festival was over and, on their second night here, they were taken to the Crazy Horse nightclub and told they would have to dance nude.

When the women, who don't speak English, refused, Virchenko ''screamed and cursed at them, telling them they were ungrateful,'' the indictment says. ''He informed the dancers that they could not leave the country until they had earned enough money dancing at the club to pay for their return ticket and living expenses.''

Two of the dancers were 16 years old when they arrived here, Cooper said.

After a lengthy bail hearing Friday, Magistrate Harry Branson approved release of Tony Kennard to the custody of a family friend from Kodiak.

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