Immigration humiliation

Two men are arrested for bringing Russian women and girls to Alaska to work as strippers.

Published January 22, 2001 8:06PM (EST)

It must have been exciting to fat, bearded losers in Anchorage, Alaska, when the local Crazy Horse strip club started advertising its newest attraction: live nude girls, direct from Russia! But the flaunting of Russian flesh wasn't exciting to agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service -- it just looked suspicious. After investigating the club, authorities have concluded that the Russian women and girls were tricked into working as strippers. Two men, an American and a Russian, have been arrested and jailed in the scheme.

According to court documents, last month seven Russian women and teenagers arrived in Anchorage from the former Soviet Union and were issued visas by their employers. They thought they'd be dancing at Russian folk festivals and cultural events, including Russian Orthodox Christmas celebrations. It was a complete shock to them when they were instead ordered to become strippers and table dancers at Crazy Horse. Their belongings, passports and airline tickets were taken from them, and whatever tips they made were also confiscated.

The American, Tony Kennard of Chugiak, Alaska, was charged with lying on visa applications, and is looking at a $250,000 fine and potentially 10 years in prison. The other suspect, Viktor Virchenko of Krasnodar, Russia, is scheduled to appear before the magistrate soon.

The Moscow Times reported that the dancers were forced to live in squalor, and were very afraid of Kennard and Virchenko. "They were essentially kept in one room," said assistant U.S. attorney Dan Cooper. "They slept on mattresses on the floor."

An affidavit from INS special agent Stefanie Vetter added that the women and girls were brought to the United States specifically "to be placed in involuntary servitude and coerced into dancing for money, all of which money was kept by Kennard."

During the investigation, the women and teens remained in Alaska in the care of INS officials. Reuters reported that some of them were preparing to head back home, undoubtedly carrying with them a much different view of America than they had expected.

By Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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