ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A man who escorted a troupe of Russian dancers to Anchorage to perform in a local strip club received a stiff sentence from a federal judge.
U.S. District Court Judge James Fitzgerald sentenced Victor Virchenko to 2 1/2 years in prison Tuesday for visa fraud and bringing two 16-year-olds across state lines for immoral purposes.
Fitzgerald went beyond the 27-month sentence suggested by prosecutors and a defense attorney, and called Virchenko's conduct ''despicable and inexcusable.''
Before learning his sentence, Virchenko apologized for breaking American laws. Through a translator, he said, ''This is a very big mistake of mine. I would like that you accept my sincere heartfelt regret.''
Virchenko, 46, will be deported after completing his sentence.
Virchenko ended up in federal court after immigration officials arrested his dance group in January as they performed at the Crazy Horse, a local strip club. He is one of three men charged in the case.
Prior to sentencing, the judge heard from the mothers of the two underage girls. They told the judge their daughters trusted Virchenko and believed they would be performing at cultural festivals. They never expected to dance naked, they said.
''Sometimes it is too painful for me to look at her,'' one mother said, describing her daughter's uncontrollable crying and insomnia.
Both mothers said their daughters are no longer welcome in their Russian village because they have been wrongly portrayed in Russian newspapers as prostitutes who knew all along they would be expected to perform nude.
Virchenko, Chugiak resident Tony Kennard and Pavel Agafonov of Marietta, Ga., originally were charged with 23 counts, including crimes under a new anti-exploitation law aimed at international traffickers in human beings, especially women and children.
In June, the three men agreed to plead guilty to reduced charges, with the understanding that more serious charges including kidnapping, forced labor, and witness intimidation would be dropped.
Virchenko became involved with Kennard through Agafonov, a man he met on a 1996 dance tour in Utah, court papers said. Last fall, Agafonov, who was working with Kennard, contacted Virchenko in Russia and asked him to come to Alaska with attractive women, court papers said. The women would be expected to perform ''Las Vegas-style show dances,'' according to the documents.
Virchenko agreed when Kennard and Agafonov offered him $6,000, equivalent to 10 years of his salary in Russia.
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