St. Louis feds: Lawyer offered $36K to marry

Federal officials allege that a married Jefferson City lawyer offered to pay a broke high school teacher to marry the lawyer's Ukranian lover so she wouldn't have to leave when her student visa expired.

But the teacher was engaged to someone else, and the deal came crashing down when the teacher's jilted fiancee went to authorities.

Federal officials in St. Louis charged the Ukrainian woman, Dar'ya Chernova, 38, with attempting to falsely procure naturalization and lying to an immigration official. She pleaded not guilty late last month. Her attorney, Brocca Smith, said the case was likely to go to trial.

There's no indication in court records that the teacher or lawyer face charges.

In court documents and testimony, federal prosecutors and agents say the lawyer offered the teacher $36,000 to marry Chernova. It was not stated whether the money was paid.

Chernova's lawyer said her client attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City on a tennis scholarship and later graduated from the University of Missouri with bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

The lawyer was a witness when Chernova and the teacher were married on March 13, 2005.

Four days later, the lawyer represented the teacher in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. And in October of that year, the lawyer also represented the teacher in a child custody case involving the former fiancee – they had a child together.

According to claims in court documents, Chernova lied in a 2010 interview with immigration officials when she said the teacher was the father of her second child. DNA tests proved that the lawyer was the father of her first and second, prosecutors say.

Smith said she believed that Chernova and the teacher remain married and that Chernova's citizenship application was still pending.