E-mail Points to Strip Scam
January 15, 2001
Bail hearings for two men charged with illegally bringing seven Russian dancers to a strip club in Anchorage were postponed Friday. But tantalizing bits of e-mail traffic filed in court by the prosecution seem to support allegations that a so-called cultural dance tour was a scam from the beginning.
The seven women, ages 16 to 30, entered the United States on Dec. 20 on tourist visas, accompanied by a "dance teacher," Viktor Virchenko, according to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. The visas did not permit the women to work.
The INS says Tony Kennard of Chugiak arranged for the women to come here through a series of e-mails with a third man, who was charged Friday.
Four of the women were working as strippers at the Crazy Horse nightclub two weeks ago when INS agents took them into custody.
Virchenko, a Russian national, and Kennard were arrested last week. They are charged with a single count of lying on visa applications.
According to the INS, Kennard said he brought the women to Alaska to perform Russian folk dances at a series of unpaid cultural events and hired them out as strippers only after the folk-dancing gigs fell through.
An exchange of e-mail between a sender who identifies himself as Paul Paris and a sender who identifies himself as Tony Kennard, which was seized by INS Friday, suggests otherwise.
Copies of messages dated Oct. 17 and 18, included in the court file, say in part:
"These are good escorts but if you taking a playboy scale they are only about 5-7. They are attractive but they are escorts, not models. . . . But my bigger concern is logistics of bringing them to Alaska. All of those jobs will pay off only if they get visa. . . . We need to control them. We may be better off controlling models (than) escorts but escorts are better at sales and communication. I rely on you as far as Alaska market goes. I have seen girls that (are) just about as good as the ones you seen making good money in Atlanta and Mexico."
The sender of this calls himself Paul Paris.
On Friday, a federal magistrate signed a criminal complaint against Pavel Paris Agafonov charging him with aiding the preparation of false visa applications. INS director for Alaska Robert Eddy said Agafonov is believed to be in the United States but not in Alaska.
Another message dated Dec. 18 from a sender who identifies himself as "Tony" says in part: "What is the cost for getting them here around the 20th the club wanted to hit the X-mas season if it does not cost (too) much."
Another message, on Dec. 19, signed "Tony," says in part: "We were a little rushed for getting the contract signed anyway. The other strip club (Crazy Horse) is making better deal so we might go with them. Now that everyone know(s) that we have girls coming in the deals are getting sweeter!"
Other e-mail messages talk about searching for a sponsor, including contacts with the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce, the Alaska State Fair and the mayor's office. Most of these efforts apparently fell through. And another message mentions "a strip club owner" as a possible sponsor.
At the request of the Eagle River chamber, Mayor George Wuerch's office provided a routine invitation for a group of cultural performers, said Denise Burger of the mayor's office. The mayor's office dealt only with the Eagle River chamber and had no contact with the dance group itself, Burger said.
Efforts to reach the chamber and an attorney representing Kennard late Friday were unsuccessful.
At one point, the correspondents panic a little when one says the mayor was planning to attend one of the cultural performances, an assertion that appears not to be true. According to the INS, the dancers performed at no bona fide cultural events, other than some dancing in Russian costumes at the Crazy Horse.
All seven women are free, according to the INS, and are remaining in the United States as material witnesses against Kennard and Virchenko.
Reporter Sheila Toomey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 907 257-4341.
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© 2001 Anchorage Daily News