CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The FBI has announced the arrests of three people belonging to an Ukrainian criminal organization operating in Cleveland and Ukraine.
45-year-old Pavlo Mostranskyy, 45-year-old Sonya Hilaszek and 40-year-old Vitaly Fedorchuk have been charged with a Federal Conspiracy to Commit Fraud and Related Activity in Connection with Identification Documents and Information after a lengthy investigation.
This investigation started in December of 2007 when information was received that individuals in the Cleveland Ukrainian community were involved in a scheme to bring foreign nationals to Cleveland and help them fraudulently obtain real Ohio driver's licenses for a fee, issued by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles by a Deputy Registrar working for this criminal organization.
The investigation focused on Vitaly Fedorchuk who was identified as the leader of the criminal organization; Sonya Hilaszek, a corrupt employee at the Deputy Registrars Office in Parma, Ohio; and Pavlo Mostranskyy, who acted as a middle-man bringing the foreign nationals to Cleveland. Other members of the organization were based in several cities throughout the United States and worked with and for Fedorchuk and Mostranskyy to identify and facilitate customers through the operation.
An undercover FBI agent was able to fraudulently obtain a real Ohio Driver's License in August of 2008 for $3000 from this criminal organization. The investigation showed that this criminal organization operated for at least four years, charging foreign nationals, most of whom are unlawfully present, between $1,500 and $3,000 for Ohio driver's licenses, and Ohio state identification cards using either fraudulent documentation or none at all.
During the course of the US-based investigation, the investigators here in Cleveland discovered evidence that the criminal group in Ohio were working with criminal counterparts in Ukraine. Together, they fraudulently obtained United States non-immigrant visas for Ukrainian nationals who then traveled to Ohio and other points in the United States. The visas were obtained from the United States Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, allegedly through corrupt Ukrainian national employees of the US Embassy. The investigative team from Cleveland, the FBI's Legal Attaché's Office in Kyiv, and Diplomatic Security Service Special Agents assigned to the US Embassy in Ukraine investigated the Ukrainian criminal group jointly with the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Organized Crime Department over the course of many months. The criminal group allegedly charged each visa applicant $12,000.00. As a result of the joint international investigation, seven members of the Ukraine-based criminal organization, including two Embassy employees, were officially detained today in Ukraine by investigators of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs for violation of Ukrainian laws.
Fedorchuk, Hilaszek, and Mostranskyy will appear Thursday in United States District Court for their initial appearance on these charges.