Attorney admits arranging marriage to keep mistress in U.S.
JEFFERSON CITY - The U.S. attorney for the western district of Missouri said Wednesday a Jefferson City attorney pleaded guilty to a marriage conspiracy involving his Ukrainian mistress.
U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson said 62-year-old James Barding, of Jefferson City, pleaded guilty Tuesday to participating in marriage fraud conspiracy.
Barding was accused of enlisting another man to marry his Ukrainian mistress so she could remain in the U.S. and seek citizenship.
According to Dickinson's office, Barding had a long-running affair with the woman, who entered the U.S. on a student visa. According to a news release, Barding enlisted the co-conspirator to marry the woman, telling him in late 2004 that he would not have to live with her and could get a divorce when she gained sufficient status to remain in the U.S. after her visa expired.
Dickinson said Barding's mistress and the co-conspirator were married in Cape Girardeau on March 13, 2005. She said the couple was married in Cape Girardeau so friends of Barding in Cole County would be less likely to hear about the marriage. Barding acted as a witness to the wedding, Dickinson said.
Officials said Barding's mistress and co-conspirator never lived together during their marriage, but filled out forms falsely claiming they shared a Jefferson City apartment. The couple also claimed to share bank accounts and bills, when no accounts or bills were actually shared.
Don Ledford, public affairs officer for Dickinson's office, said in a news release, "The only purpose for the marriage was so that she could evade immigration laws and remain in the United States with Barding."
The Ukrainian woman was granted permanent resident status on Nov. 27, 2008.
Ledford said about nine and a half months after the fraudulent marriage, Barding and his mistress had a child. They had a second child the following year. Ledford said the mistress falsely claimed the second child belonged to her and her husband.
Officials said Barding admitted he met with his mistress and her husband on April 20, 2010 to go over testimony they were scheduled to present the following day to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. The next day, Barding drove the couple to the interview in St. Louis. where Barding's mistress made false claims with Barding's knowledge, according to Dickinson's office.
Ledford said Barding was subject to up to five years in federal prison without parole and up to a $250,000 fine. He said a sentencing hearing would be scheduled after the completion of an investigation by the United States Probation Office.
Ledford said Barding's mistress had moved out of the state since her fraudulent marriage. He said Barding and his mistress' two children lived with Barding in Jefferson City.