Three plea to illegally bringing Russian dancers to Alaska

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Three of four people accused of coercing Russian dancers into stripping at a local nightclub pleaded guilty Wednesday to bringing two underage dancers to Alaska for nude performances.

They also pleaded guilty to six counts of visa fraud.

At separate U.S. District Court hearings, Tony Kennard, 39, Victor Virchenko, 47, and Pavel Agafonov, 34, entered their pleas and discussed agreements reached between their attorneys and a federal prosecutor.

The government is expected to dismiss conspiracy, kidnapping, forced labor and witness intimidation charges at sentencing hearings scheduled in August.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Cooper said he also has filed a motion to dismiss charges against Kennard's wife, Rachel Kennard.

Prosecutors said the Kennards, Agafonov and Virchenko concocted a scheme to bring the dancers to Alaska in December by telling the Immigration and Naturalization Service the troupe was to perform native folk dances. Once here, their passports and return tickets were confiscated and stowed at the Kennards' Eagle River home, according to the indictment.

The six women, including two 16-year-olds, were told to dance nude at the Crazy Horse nightclub until they earned enough money to pay for their tickets and lodging, according to the indictment.

Chugiak resident Tony Kennard, who acted as the group's Crazy Horse agent, said Wednesday he did not know at the time that the girls were underage.

''And when he did know, he stopped them from dancing,'' said John Bernitz, his attorney.

But Cooper, the prosecutor, said it did not matter what Kennard knew. What mattered was the girls' age, Cooper said.

Agafonov, a Russian who lives near Atlanta, Ga., and Virchenko, of Russia, pleaded guilty under agreements that included recommended prison sentences.

Unless Judge James Singleton rejects the agreements, Agafonov will be sentenced to 18 months in prison and Virchenko will serve 24 months. There was no agreement regarding Tony Kennard's sentence.

Several of the dancers attended the hearing. They have temporary legal immigration status and are being housed in a safe location, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

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