Last year, the Federal Court of California published previously sealed documents that shed light on the existence of an actual real estate mafia amongst the members of the Bethany Slavic Missionary Church in Sacramento. The lawsuits, which are dealing with fraud that occurred in at least 38 real estate transactions, include senior leadership representatives of this religious community of immigrants. For five whole years, the Christian-Realtor Mafia fought off charges in the Federal Court while aided by expensive attorneys. Ultimately, all their efforts were for naught when they were sentenced for major collusion against American financial institutions and members of the Slavic diaspora of Sacramento.
In the upper photo: Vera Kuzmenko, Pyotr Bondaruk, Olga Palamarchuk, Peter Kuzmenko, Nadezhda Kuzmenko, Vera Zhiry
“Vera Kuzmenko and her accomplices deliberately lied to their community, abused the trust of their victims, damaged their financial well-being and adversely affected the regional economy,” FBI special agent Manuel Alvarez said. – We hope this verdict will serve as an example to other scammers. The FBI will continue to pursue the organizers of major financial scams in order to protect the region’s economy and provide justice for victims of crime.”
The Federal Court in Sacramento released documents that revealed the secret lives led by the children of the founders of one of the largest and most famous Slavic protestant churches, not only in the U.S. but perhaps in the whole West Hemisphere. Thanks to publicly available information, the heinous acts and crimes committed by the children of the God-fearing founders of a large religious community in California, are becoming known to the general public. They conspired in treacherous schemes against each other and against society, forged documents, threatened their victims, cheated U.S. financial institutions, lied to FBI, laundered millions of dollars, and acquired homes in the elite areas of California and Hawaii as well as excessively spent on jewelry, drugs, luxury cars and designer clothes using the money they obtained through their crimes.
Recently acquired transcripts from court hearings paint a full picture of the criminal activities committed by the Kuzmenko, Kebets and Bondaruk families, whose parents are the original founders of the “Bethany” Slavic Missionary church. It was precisely the children and relatives of these families that forged the backbone of the criminal group and, according to government, defrauded the Slavic diaspora of Sacramento.
Half of Kuzmenko’s family is currently behind bars
The head and brains of the criminal organization, Vera Kuzmenko, received a 14-year sentence and was placed in the low-security Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin in Alameda County, California.
Her brother, Peter Kuzmenko, was sentenced to a total of 27.5 years in a federal prison (the term ends in 2032). He is serving his sentence in the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth, Kansas.
Their sister and accomplice, Nadezhda Kuzmenko, received an eight-year sentence in prison. However, it was recently reported to a ‘Slavic Sacramento’ correspondent that in November of last year she was released on a quarter million-dollar bail while her appeal was going through consideration.
Anna Kuzmenko (Sorokina) was also found guilty under two articles of federal law.
Vera Kuzmenko’s husband, Edward Shevtsov, was sentenced to 8 years in prison. He is serving his sentence in a private prison in Oklahoma.
Olga Palamarchuk (5 years and 10 months in prison) and the son of a Pentecostal bishop Pyotr Bondaruk (5 years and 11 months) serve their sentence in a parallel court case. 46-year-old Pyotr Bondaruk is in the Taft Correctional Institution (Kern district, Central California) and will be released in December 2020.
As “Slavic Sacramento” was able to find out, Olga Palamarchuk, a loan specialist at Capital Mortgage Lending, shares a cell with Vera Kuzmenko in the Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin (Alameda district).
Vera Zhiriy, Olga Palamarchuk’s 38-year-old niece, was to serve her term (3 years and 1 month) in the same federal correctional institution until May 2018 but filed an appeal and was released in April of last year.
Alexander Kuzmenko was also sentenced by federal district judge Garland Burrell to two years and three months in prison. Together with his sisters, he filed false tax returns at the VK Tax Services company. Currently he is serving his sentence in Sacramento.
Recently, several members of the local “Armenian mafia” involved in fraudulent deals with Kuzmenko were also found guilty by the court.
FBI agents came to the children of Bishop Bondaruk
It is not widely known that in the Kuzmenko-Palamarchuk-Bondaruk case, one of the pastors of Bethany church as well as the director of the missionary school, Pavel Bondaruk, appeared in the court as a witness for the defense.
In the early 2000’s Paul had a realtor license in the State of California and was active in real estate closings. During the investigation it turned out that the pastor was engaged in the sale of at least one of the houses fraudulently acquired by his brother Peter.
The bishop’s youngest son, Mark Bondaruk, participated in the illicit schemes along with his brother, acquiring two houses along the way. As a result of his careless and illegal actions, the FBI came knocking at his door to investigate.
Vera Kuzmenko, owner of VK Tax Services, aided him in closing a deal with forged documents. This was discovered due to the audio and video recordings made of the defendants during the investigation, which was passed along to the FBI in secret by a relative of the family, Natalia Kislitsa (Kuzmenko).
“If they (the authorities) are going to arrest everyone, they will imprison everyone,” Kislitsa says, speaking to Olga Palamarchuk.
“They (FBI agents) turned the whole city upside down, they also came to the two Bondaruk brothers,” her companion answers.
“Which one of the Bondaruk’s, to Sashka?” – Questions Kislitsa.
“No. To Marik “, – Clarifies Palamarchuk.
Slavic press and church participate in “promotion” of fraudsters
Let it be reminded how the notorious group of the Kuzmenko-Palamarchuk-Bondaruk group operated; according to the American press, ten years ago this criminal organization facilitated in escalating the subprime mortgage crisis in the US and around the world.
It all started with an immigrant from Estonia – 48-year-old Vera Kuzmenko, who lived in the capital of California and found work filling out tax returns, mostly for immigrants from the former USSR.
Vera actively advertised her services on the radio and in Russian-language newspapers (which are regularly distributed in local churches with the pastors’ permission), calling to the non-English-speaking parishioners to “do their taxes.” The fraudulent business was promoted especially persistently by ‘Afisha’, an advertising agency headed by the David Ponomar.
Afisha is the leading advertising agency and magazine in Slavic society, whose publications also includes newspaper Diaspora, the Afisha advertising guide, and Russkoye Radio. Afisha published ads for Vera Kuzmenko and realtor Pavel Bondaruk with enviable regularity.
Referred by the ad, the uninformed and often poorly educated people came to VK Tax Services, after which the most peculiar situation would occur: in the process of preparing documents for the Tax Service, they were offered a chance to buy a expensive house somewhere in the Sacramento area as well.
Remarkably, the some publishers of Slavic media publicize news regarding the deceitful business of the Kuzmenko family to this very day.
Moreover, there is reason to suspect that various pastors of Slavic churches (including Adam Bondaruk) were at the very least aware of the dirty business their parishioners and relatives participated in. This did not deter them in the slightest from continuing to brazenly promote the corrupt interests of their children. One of two things come to mind: either they were paid bribes or received interest from deals, or at least they received free PR in the secular press distributed under the roofs of their churches. For everyone knows that in the city exists an implicit agreement between traditional press and the church: you do not interfere in our business, and we won’t throw your publications out of churches and besmirch you to our parishioners. This long-established tandem has functioned quite successfully not only in Sacramento, but also in many other US cities. But alas, that is a topic for a separate article.
Let’s return to the investigation. In the tax returns of VK Tax Services clients, Kuzmenko and her accomplices forged additional zeroes at the end of the income as evidence of the buyer’s wealth and financial soundness, after which these declarations were sent to lending companies and banks. And – what a miracle – good California real estate became the property of poor immigrants from the Russian Commonwealth!
But only for a short time.
After living in the illegally-purchased houses for a few months, the perpetrators hired “pocket” construction contractors, like Pete’s Pool which is owned by Peter Kuzmenko. The houses were allegedly being renovated with the help of these contractors, significantly raising their value in the eyes of banks. At times residential real estate was refinanced by means of bribery or dating, a method which also significantly increased the margin when selling. Subsequently the dealers took out large loans secured by real estate, cashed the checks and … suddenly stopped paying the monthly payments on loans. As a result, the house either fell into the “short sale” or were forfeited by the bank and put up for auction at its production cost.
That is how America’s financial institutions remained in the dark. In addition, while the house went under the hammer these resourceful Slavs also managed to illegally earn monthly rent from their fellow-tenants.
Napoleonic plans to seize the neighborhoods of Sacramento were discussed by the conspirators at family meetings, and, according to court materials, also at the Kuzmenko family’s dacha in Hawaii where the whole group consisting of Vera, Nadezhda, Natalya and Petr Kuzmenko together with Pyotr Bondaruk and his mistress Olga Palamarchuk-Kebets, regularly rested.
“Verka has dragged the whole mafia into the business”
Natalia Kislitsa was a relative to the Kuzmenko family – she was married to Vladimir Kuzmenko, the elder brother of the family, but in 2009 divorced him. Perhaps it was dislike towards the Kuzmenko clan, or the reluctance to share a cell in prison with them, or maybe both reasons combined that played a cruel joke on the Slavic criminals. Kislitsa was present at many of Kuzmenko’s meetings as well as worked at the reception in the office of VK Tax Services. It is safe to say that she was well aware of the company’s internal affairs.
One way or another, the FBI agents persuaded Kislitsa to cooperate with the investigation and become a secret informant, giving her the task of instigating the scammers to speak openly about their affairs and to record their conversation.
One day, Olga Palamarchuk went for drinks at a local restaurant with Kislitsa and told her about the secret get-rich-quick scheme she was caught up in, completely unaware that she was being recorded. Obediently following orders given by the FBI, Kislitsa elicited a confession from Palamarchuk and transmitted audio and video recordings to the federals. Kislitsa had recorded other participants of the fraud scheme in addition to Palamarchuk, as were her orders.
“Mark (Bondaruk) bought houses and got rich, and Feitser?” Kislitsa questioned in one of the conversations with Palamarchuk. “Shit. Everyone is involved in this.”
“Verka’s dragged the whole mafia into the business,” said Olga Palamarchuk, not suspecting that she was baited by the turncoat into revealing information for the FBI – “She taught us everything … We’ve never had this much money!”
At some point, Vera Kuzmenko bought a house for $1.2 million in Roseville for herself. As a result of fraudulent transactions, the company Kuzmenko used as a front, Markovich Home Improvement, earned $127 thousand and Vera herself received a pretty decent commission in the deal.
In another application for a loan for a house on Carmelo Oaks street, Vera Kuzmenko wrote that for the first six months of 2006 her tax business revenues amounted to about $127 thousand. However, according to federal agent Fitzpatrick the IRS report for 2006 shows a different amount – approximately $46 thousand.
In 2006-2007, Natalia Kislitsa acquired a house with the help of Vera Kuzmenko. It was bought with the help of bank loans which were obtained on the basis of false information. Moreover, with Vera Kuzmenko’s involvement on this house was placed a lien. As a result of the fraudulent scam, Kislitsa received a $125,000 kickback. When FBI agents came to Kislitsa, Vera urged her to lie but Kislitsa soon confessed to lying and began to cooperate with the authorities, selling out her relatives one by one.
The coconspirators recruited gullible and naïve people from the Slavic community who had good credit history but no money. At that time, the state provided substantial assistance to buyers who were trying to purchase their first real estate property, and many took the bait when they heard Kuzmenko’s words: “No money? Buy a house!”
What was the money spent on?
Thanks to Palamarchuk’s audio confession, we got a chance to find out what exactly that money was spent on: the participants of the scheme acquired elite cars, expensive jewelry, clothes, entertainment, as well as gambled at casinos and paid off their debts.
For instance: a couple of days after receiving $260 thousand to their account, the family of Natalia Kislitsa (Kuzmenko) purchased an expensive Cadillac Escalade, as well as made a purchase at Macy’s totaling $2,739.
Thanks to the “revolutionary” ideas of Vera Kuzmenko, money was raining on immigrants not used to luxury, as if from the mouth of Cornucopia itself. To put it simply, they did not know what to do with such riches or what to spend their newfound wealth on; some, as it seems, even started to bury the money…
On the audio record, it can be heard how Palamarchuk, a little inebriated, advises turning the stolen money into gold, because if they “put the money in a bank and buy a house or buy land in one of their names”, intelligence services will quickly bring the culprits out into the open. Palamarchuk even offered Kislitsa to launder her money with the help of a jewelry boutique in which she knew the saleswoman.
Peter “double crossed” the whole mafia; his realtor is his own brother – pastor Pavel Bondaruk
Being Pyotr Bondaruk’s lover, Olga Palamarchuk hoped to earn more money for their future together but soon realized that the bishop’s cunning son had deceived her and “took the biggest jackpot”. Pyotr Bondaruk pocketed all the dishonestly earned finances and “double crossed” the whole mafia, spending the money “either at casinos, or on something else.”
“Bondaruk (Pyotr – SlavicSac.com) behaved atrociously – took all the money and lost it, it’s possible that he even buried it,” Olga complained in a conversation with the FBI informant. “I thought he would give the money to his brother to pay off the house, but he doesn’t even have enough money fill up his car. They were my friends.”
The thirst for easy money and disregard for American laws, spreading like rust it affected not only the family of Kuzmenko, but also the family of the famous Pentecostal bishop, Adam Bondaruk.
In the autumn of 2005, Inna Beissikov put up a house located at 7784 Hyde Park Cr, Antelope, CA for sale for $615 thousand. The real estate listing was handled by Peter Bondaruk’s brother Pavel Bondaruk, who at that time was a realtor and now is one of the main pastors of Bethany church. Peter Bondaruk acquired the house in his name and received $40 thousand as a “kickback”.
It is worth noting that during the course of the trial, very strange things were happening: Inna Beissikov could not remember who put her house up for sale, although documents show that it was pastor Pavel Bondaruk. Beissikov simply says, “I used drugs,” or “I do not remember.” The same thing happened with Pyotr Bondaruk; he could not clearly explain specifics from his the history of buying those properies, attributing his sudden memory lapses to use of methamphetamine.
Brother Pavel struggled to distance himself from the questionable transaction and claimed that the act of buying and selling the house on Hyde Park Cr was done by another realtor since he himself had retired.
In any case, a loan of $465 thousand, filed for on the basis of forged documents, was received for the purchased real estate which was later refinanced with the help of an agent from Capital Mortgage Lending to Olga Palamarchuk. After refinancing, the loan on the house rose to $485 thousand. In the process of issuing loans and refinancing, Palamarchuk received about 25 thousand dollars. It was in this house that the FBI agents, who decided to visit one day, discovered that there was no work going on to improve living conditions, nor was there a pool, which was mentioned in the documents submitted for refinancing. These people had lied to the representatives of the financial structures, saying that the owners allegedly paid $32,378 to Pete’s Pool Service for the pool.
Pyotr Bondaruk constantly lies
While filling in the questionnaire for refinancing the loan, Pyotr Bondaruk indicated that he earns $11,400 per month and had about $26,000 in his account. To back up the legend of Pyotr’s financial security, his mistress and part-time schemer put $40,000 into his bank account and confirmed that Pyotr rented his home from her, describing him as a very trustworthy person who “always pays the bills on time”.
In the application Bondaruk also claimed that he owned a BMW worth $25 thousand and a boat worth $10 thousand.
In another case of obtaining a loan, Bondaruk indicated a Lexus car for $48 thousand, a boat for $35 thousand and furniture for $36 thousand as collateral – everything totaling $507 thousand. Meanwhile, his acquaintances testified that Bondaruk gave off the impression of a bum and lived under his parents’ roof.
Vadim Pekun, who named himself a servant of a Slavic church in Sacramento, also came to the witness stand for this incident. He said that from December 2006 to July 2017, he, along with his family, illegally rented a house on Hyde Park Circle from Pyotr Bondaruk. The vacant property was recommended to him by yet another son of the bishop, Vitaliy Bondaruk.
Pekun testifies that he did not even notice that the house was under repair, let alone the existence of this mythical pool.
The second house worth $515 thousand was located at 7737 Megan Ann Way in Antelope. It was purchased by Pyotr Bondaruk in 2006 from the family of Vasiliy and Valentina Melnik, who later moved from Sacramento to South Carolina. In court, the Melniks said that they turned to Pyotr Bondaruk thanks to the fame of his father, Bishop Adam Bondaruk, in the Slavic diaspora.
To purchase this house, Bondaruk received a loan of $521 thousand.
As it turned out, $100 thousand from the deal went from the Melnik’s account to Vera Zhiriy’s account, who is a relative of Kuzmenko, in total secrecy. Participants in the scam then divide the light-earned money amongst themselves.
Filling out documents for loans, Pyotr Bondaruk constantly lied: for example, one day he indicated that he owned his own company for repairing automobiles, Peter’s Auto Motors, and received about $14,000 a month, and that he had $24,000 in his bank account. However, a source from the IRS says that Bondaruk earned $7,000 in 2004, slightly over $8,000 in 2005, $11,000 in 2006, and about $6,000 in 2007, while paying only $480 in taxes.
In another case, in order to convince banks of his reliability in paying, Bondaruk stated that he worked at a cargo transportation company belonging to Olga Palamarchuk’s brother Bogdan Sveridan. During the trial, Sveridan stated that he had no recollection of Bondaruk ever working for him.
Having neither a legitimate financial history, nor any genuine documents, Bondaruk drew up both houses on himself and cashed bank checks for a total of more than $100,000, the court documents state. Having acquired multiple houses, “renovated” their furnishings, refinanced them and took on loans secured by real estate, Bondaruk filed for bankruptcy and went gallivanting to the casino…
“Bury money in the ground”
Meanwhile, the “experienced” Palamarchuk, reasonably suspecting that they are being watched by special services, advised her like-minded people to not register property and cars in their name under any circumstance but to invest in companies under a false name and even “bury money in the ground.”
Bondaruk’s money seemingly disappeared without a trace. Even a powerful service like the IRS could not find all of it. As a result of Bondaruk’s activities, banks suffered losses of at least half a million dollars, prosecutors say.
“I do not think it’s (the money) buried (by him – SlavicSac.com),” complained Palamarchuk on the FBI audio recordings, “he’s one of those who plays in the casino – he lost, and that’s it.”
“And that’s why he drinks so much,” she added.
In another dialogue, Palamarchuk stated that she believes that Mikhail Kuzmenko, father of the family, “can help Verka bury the money in the garden.”
“100% the father will help Verka bury the money as well. Except afterwards he must put cherubs on them, – laughed Olga Palamarchuk, continuing: “Imagine, half a million dollars buried in the garden.”
During a different segment of the recording, the accomplices can be heard agreeing on the fact that the father of the Kuzmenko family rejected his daughter’s offer to take part in the scheme.
The defendants attempt to evade responsibility by blaming each other as well as banks, and also blaming one Miroslava Chekin, who worked at VK Tax Services for a short period of time, perishing suspiciously in Ukraine afterwards.
Pastor Pavel Bondaruk: Am I my brother’s caretaker?
Meanwhile, covering the filthy deeds of his son, the family of Bishop Adam Bondaruk go on a predictable (but completely ineffective) course. With the mediation of one of the senior pastors of the Bethany church Ivan Gavrilyuk, they turned to Judge Troy L. Nunley with a request to have mercy on the “black sheep”. Despite their efforts, the official letter from the church did not make any impression on the judge, and as a result the son of the well known bishop received 6 years of prison, not for believing in God or Christian behavior, but for deceiving the American society.
Pyotr Bondaruk was found guilty of all four counts he was charged with by the prosecution (fraud with US mail, giving false information to financial institutions and two incidents of money laundering). His lawyers took it even further into absurd territory – during the announcement of the verdict they asked the judge to postpone the execution of the verdict so that “the son of a famous bishop could take part in church affairs together with his father.”
Interesting, in what church affairs could the criminal and sex offender Peter Bondaruk possbile help his father Adam Bondaruk? Steal money from the church fund, or carry the sacrament to the parishioners who lacked the courage or gumption to inquire into the secret affairs of the church tycoons?
As a representative of the Slavic community of Sacramento, I was very ashamed to hear such excuses of Slavic priests within the walls of the Federal Court.
In court, Pastor Pavel Bondaruk confirmed that he does not recognize his brother’s signature on forged documents, since Peter is just “his brother, not his wife”. Meanwhile, Pastor Paul wrote a letter to the judge saying that he knows his brother very well and asks for mercy for Peter.
After reading dozens of volumes and around 100 thousand of pages of court cases against the “Kuzmenko-Palamarchuk-Bondaruk” gang, a persistent impression is created that most of the participants in the case were in a constant narcotic and alcoholic haze (which some of them claimed in court) and seemed to remember nothing; they can’t remember who was a realtor, what they bought, what documents they signed, who wrote checks to whom, and so on. When it benefits them, they recall things that happened a few years ago with perfect detail, but when the threat of jail time looms overhead, they conveniently forget everything from yesterday, or completely hold back, hide or misinform the investigation, as well as using the church and their faith in God as a façade.
The case features another son of the bishop – Mark Bondaruk
In the audio recording made by Kislitsa for the FBI, Olga Palamarchuk said that another son of Bishop Adam Bondaruk, Mark Bondaruk, along with the “young Feizer are toying with Vera.”
Indeed, thanks to judicial documents, it turns out that while using her fraudulent scheme, Vera Kuzmenko bought two houses in the name of Mark Bondaruk. One of the houses is in Sacramento at 4311 Carmelo Oaks.
However, Mark Bondaruk received immunity from the judge and hardly shed any light on his dealings. Only one thing is known – the younger Bondaruk clearly participated in the shady affairs of Kuzmenko, otherwise why would he need immunity from prosecution.
A digression needs to be made here to give the readers a detailed description of the scheme used by the Kuzmenko-Palamarchuk-Bondaruk group when buying and selling real estate. One part of the scheme was the alleged improvement of the site or the house itself with the help of Pete’s Pool Services. Which, naturally, was reflected in the documents when selling or refinancing the house and increasing its estimated value, which means that the bank issued a larger amount of money against real estate, which was soon “dumped” by fake buyers who stopped making payments.
This is the most likely scenario to have happened with the house located at 4311 Carmelo Oaks in Sacramento: Mark Bondaruk bought a house with the help of Kuzmenko and had been paying a loan for several months. Then, he was allegedly not able to cope with the severity of the payments to the bank, in which case the house quickly transferred to Vera Kuzmenko for $650 thousand. Petr Kuzmenko casually stated that he equipped a pool on this property, took 45 thousand for the “improvement” of real estate and… finally finishing the operation by sharing “kickbacks” with the rest of the scheming participants.
At one of the court hearings, Mark Bondaruk was presented with a bill signed by him for $45 thousand for “upgrading” the site with Pete’s Pool Services (owned by Petr Kuzmenko).
Bondaruk insisted that he completely did not remember the account he signed for construction work, as well as the fact that the lien of $55,000 was imposed on the house. He claimed that he did not order improvement of living conditions, did not live in the house, and in general the house had to be sold in 3-4 months “because of a lack of money.”
Soon after, Bondaruk was asked to identify another document, where on his behalf a promise was given to return $55 thousand to Kuzmenko. Again, Bondaruk recognized his signature, yet for the life of him could not remember the contents of the agreement.
As a result, Vera Kuzmenko received a check for $55 thousand from the sale of that house. However, details of the transaction are not disclosed to the public since Mark Bondaruk received immunity for his testimony in court against Kuzmenko. In other words, Bondaruk procured a deal with the FBI and “leaked” information regarding Kuzmenko to the federal agents.
“And then he (Mark Bondaruk) asked for immunity, despite the fact that he does not consider himself guilty!” – exclaimed Vera Kuzmenko’s lawyer, Todd Leras, in the closing statement.
A similar incident happened to another one of Mark Bondaruk’s houses. First, a certain Maria Pukhan bought a house at 3201 Mountain View Ave from Eugenia Feitser, the wife of pastor Nikolay Feitser. The son of the pastor, Pavel Feitser, testified in court and unwaveringly supported the tale that the house needed renovation, and that the Feitsers allegedly spent $300 thousand on renovating it. Afterwards, the house was resold to Mark Bondaruk.
The point that is being made is that in this case as well, the defense needed to prove that the scammers were actually repairing the houses they bought, which is what actually made it possible to refinance the real estate on more favorable terms.
Actively advertising himself in local media, broker Victor Demchuk of Capital City Real Estate worked with Kuzmenko for a while, however during the investigation he told the FBI that he refused to work with them, having discovered their immoral values. Afterwards, Kuzmenko turned to another loan broker – Aaron New. Vera Kuzmenko bribed her new broker, acquiring a house in Hawaii for him that was neighboring her own property.
“Dear President Barack Obama”
Vera Kuzmenko’s family appealed to then-President Barack Obama, requesting that Kuzmenko be released to freedom. The petition garnered less than twenty signatures before it died out completely. Below is a segment from the petition, written by her thirteen year old daughter Jessica Shevstov.
“After she was arrested, I cried days and nights, almost choking myself in tears and crying. It is almost unhuman to separate children and parent. My mom is a very honest, hardworking, loyal and kind woman. All of her tax clients love her. She always tought me how to be honest and kind, and that “God is watching me of what I am doing, even when nobody sees me”. She took me to church. She is my best friend, with whom I share all of my secrets. I do not know much about her case, but I truly believe that there was some mistake. My mom was accused of “mortgage fraud” and lying about borrowers income on their loan applications and hiding millions of dollars somewhere. All of this does not make sense because my mom never lies, she did not have Real Estate license and never had this kind of money.”
Close to 700 signatures in support of the Kuzmenko family were collected from members of Bethany church and various other people. Included among the numerous letters sent to Judge Mendoza are letters from an odious Ukrainian politician, a candidate of Verkhovna Rada in 2006, and the founder of the ‘Spravedliva (Fair) Ukraine’ party, Anatoliy Pechotin.
Vera Kuzmenko’s parents, Michael and Nina Kuzmenko, wrote a letter in which they described how Vera was persecuted for her Christian faith even as a child back on their native soil, whereas here in America she was an unknowing victim, merely a pawn used by Edward Shevstov and his family for their illicit business dealings.
In his letter to the judge, the elder son of the Bishop, pastor Pavel Bondaruk, who worked in a South Sacramento office for some time alongside Vera, defends his brother and the Vera Kuzmenko.
Mocking the faith of their parents, drugs and drinking
During the interviews recorded by the FBI, the suspects recounted how they pound alcohol, betray each other and mock the faith that their Christian parents, fleeing from the Soviet Union, loved and honored so much.
Despite the complete lack of respect for society and any moral principles, it turns out that according to the conversation between Natalia Kislitsa and Olga Palamarchuk, fearing that the FBI was close to arresting them, they “asked the church to pray for their problem, but did not say specifically for what.”
The published court documents confirm that after his first arrest in 2011, Petr Kuzmenko was hospitalized with symptoms of an illicit drug overdose. After that incident, he was placed in the Sacramento County Jail once again, which is where he was before the verdict was announced and where he passed a course of rehabilitation under the court’s order.
“Like Pyotr Bondaruk, the defendant was a straw buyer of real estate. He bought three houses while providing false information about his income, welfare and intention to live in these houses. He ran a major scam for his sister Vera Kuzmenko. He recruited other straw buyers and paid them for it. He even recruited his own wife, the mother of his children, putting her freedom in jeopardy because of greed… “, declared the statement recommending his detention.
The prosecutor’s office pointed out that Kuzmenko was previously held accountable for theft, burglary, possession of drugs, and the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors.
Following the well-known scheme, Petr Kuzmenko purchased three houses in the Sacramento district while his wife Anna Sorokina (Kuzmenko) purchased one house. Acquiring a loan for one of them, Peter indicated that he earns $35 thousand a month. One of the houses Petr bought was from his brother Nikolay Kuzmenko, who received $85,000 from this transaction. Interestingly, it was Nikolay Kuzmenko who listed his property as collateral to ensure the release of Nadia Kuzmenko from federal prison.
Pyotr Bondaruk is characterized as a recidivist, an alcoholic and a gambler. As Palamarchuk testified, one day he even threatened to kill his Armenian friend, and then immediately begged that same friend to take him to the casino.
Previously, he was brought to trial not only for theft and burglary, but also for a crime as horrifying as the rape of a sleeping woman.
“A leopard cannot change the color of its skin,” Natalia Kislitsa quoted the Bible while talking about the Bishop’s son.
In court, Bondaruk admitted that he did not remember all the details of his crimes because of frequent use of methamphetamine.
“Behind the defendant (Pyotr Bondaruk) there is a trail of crimes, and he is not able to change his criminal way of life,” declared the state prosecution. – “In the last 15 years he has not worked anywhere and still lives with his parents. In a conversation with his supervising officer about raping a sleeping woman, he embellished his behavior.”
“The defendant will again commit an atrocity, the society must be protected from his future crimes,” was the verdict of the prosecutor’s office.
The saints are on trial to the “infidels”, or This is surely the case of the “Bethany” church
I was able to attend the meeting room on the day when the Federal Court of the Eastern District of California held a final hearing on the case of our realtors, at which the final verdict was announced.
In addition to the defendants from the Kuzmenko-Palamarchuk-Bondaruk group, two senior pastors from Bethany church, Ivan Gavrilyuk and Vladimir Kebets, were in the public benches. I was extremely surprised by their presence seeing that from the very beginning of the arrests, the accused leaders of the real estate mafia were loudly and indignantly exclaiming to the press that their scheming was in no way connected to Bethany church. If this is true, then why were there members of the church board in the courtroom?
The answer is very simple, and many will not like it.
First, it turns out that the leader of the criminal group, Olga Palamarchuk, is a relative, or more precisely, the daughter-in-law of the senior pastor of the Church of Bethany, Vladimir Kebets. It is worth noting that pastor Vladimir Kebets has been the head of Bethany’s Sunday school for a long time, in which there are hundreds of children of believing immigrants. (What kind of father can teach other people’s children if he gave a very questionable upbringing to his own?)
And second: why did the above-mentioned pastor Ivan Gavrilyuk address the judge on behalf of Bethany Church, vigorously defending Pyotr Bondaruk? Why didn’t Bishop Bondaruk speak up for his son instead? Why did he not even bother to appear at the final session of the court to say goodbye to the son who is lecherous and criminal, yet is still his son? The answer is obvious: the Bondaruk patriarch has more important things to do than visit his lawless son in prison. He heads the Union of Pentecostal Christians of America and, according to Gavrilyuk, a church of 10 thousand parishioners (!), and also finds time to participate in raider seizures of foreign lands in Ukraine!
Naturally, his presence in the courtroom could cause dissatisfaction and a host of uncomfortable questions among the American media and his congregation, which would damage the reputation of his multimillion-dollar family business.
Bishop Bondaruk covers ungodly business
“I would like to note that Adam and Pavel Bondaruk are writing two letters (to the court). Perfect! Vera Kuzmenko gave Olga Palamarchuk false information for the Tax Service on behalf of Peter Bondaruk, and they claim that she (Vera) is a great person? “- wondered prosecutor Bickley.
“The Kuzmenko family fled from Estonia to the US in an attempt to escape from the Soviet Communist regime in search of a better life and with the goal of being able to freely practice their religion,” wrote senior Pastor Adam Bondaruk in his statement to the judge, “The Kuzmenko family is large and I have known them all for nearly 40 years. They are hardworking people who help out those in need. Vera has especially contributed to our community.”
It is obvious that corrupt Bishop Adam Bondaruk uses the reputation of the church which, interestingly enough, he considers his own property, as well as manipulating his “pocket” servant Ivan Gavrilyuk and trying to use his influence to free his son Peter from prison.
And, it seems, this is not the first time.
Speaking at the final court hearing, Pyotr Bondaruk’s lawyer Dina L. Santos stated that her client, “although has some problems with immigration” (P. Bondaruk is not a US citizen – SlavicSac.com), does not pose a particular danger to the community.
“He is a legal resident, he has 11 brothers and sisters. His father is a very respected bishop of the church. He (Pyotr) constantly helps his father in the church. His brother is also a pastor, “Santos said, trying to elicit pity from the judge.
Olga Palamarchuk disrespects the prosecutor, Eduard Kebets is expelled from the courtroom
The documents of the court also mention the moment when Olga Palamarchuk and her husband Eduard Kebets received a complaint from the participants of the trial. As the federal prosecutor Bickley told the judge, Kebets threw insulting remarks in her direction during breaks in the courthouse. And Olga Palamarchuk once called Natalia Kislitsa a “bitch” in the corridor of the court. The incident occurred seemingly, because Kislitsa testified against them.
Bickley complained to Judge Troy Nunley, who lectured Kebets and issued a strict warning that was logged in the record of the trial.
In another instance, Eduard Kebets was, in fact, thrown out from the hall for shouting in Russian at the federal prosecution.
In addition, witnesses at the trial were threatened with physical obliteration. Someone discovered bolts unscrewed from the wheels of their cars, others were subjected to financial and social pressure. Many witnesses did not appear in the courtroom because of fear of retribution.
Olga Palamarchuk seems to have been married several times before her romance with Pyotr Bondaruk, including to Eduard Kebets. The documents of the court give her full name – Olga Palamarchuk-Kebets-Sveridan. On more than one occasion she juggled her names – most likely not to fall under the suspicion of law enforcement.
The third son of the bishop and the family of pastor Feitser in action
Mentioned in the documents of the court is the other son of Bishop Adam Bondaruk – Vitaliy Bondaruk, who, according to one of the witnesses, recruited at least one of the tenants. Flashing between the pages of the witness lists are the names of the pastor’s family members, the financial director of the church and the construction magnate Nikolay Feitser, as well as his wife, Eugenia Feitser.
The son of one of the pastors of the church, Alexey Trukhan, who had participated in the collusion as well also filed a false application for a loan secured by a house located at 7449 Wells in Citrus Heights. In order to receive a loan of $800 thousand, the amount of $32 thousand was indicated in the “monthly income” column in the questionnaire filled in Alexey’s name. In addition, it is reported in the tax documents filed on behalf of Trukhan that in 2005 he earned $400 thousand. Trukhan denied this information at the trial, saying that it was a clear lie.
It turned out that Vera Kuzmenko’s husband, Edward Shevtsov, promised Trukhan $55 thousand for participating in the transaction. It is noted in court documents that as a result of the fraud with the house, $269 thousand went to the account owned by Shevtsov’s company Brazil Inc.
Despite the fact that he received $55 thousand as a “kickback” in the form of “cash, in an envelope in a parking lot” and attempted to pay the loan for a while, the bank still had to sell the house at a loss in the end.
Testifying in court, Trukhan also said that he received immunity from the state, for fear of prosecution for his participation in the criminal scheme.
Kuzmenko stole personal data of her clients
Hundreds of e-mails, fictitious invoices, lease agreements, bank statements, payrolls and other documents confirming the existence of colossal conspiracy were brought to court. While the victims of their schemes were not able to sell their homes, the Kuzmenko family and their accomplices received large incomes from fraudulent scams, stringing along the residents of Sacramento and turning out deal after deal.
Thanks to VK Tax Services being a well-known tax business with many clients, Kuzmenko had access to personal information as well as the level of income of her clients, which in most cases helped her form the bait that hooked her victims.
Together with Olga Palamarchuk, Kuzmenko concocted a package of false documents for the bank, and to keep the ‘fictitious’ owner of the house silent, promised him a $35 thousand “kickback.” In the end, he paid for Yurkevich’s services in the form of a Lexus worth $25 thousand.
Victims trusted the fraudsters
Other representatives of the Slavic diaspora in Sacramento also got involved in a similar situation – the realtor mafia of the Kuzmenko family and Palamarchuk dragged at least three dozen households in the region into their web. The prosecuting party presented over 150 witnesses, state employees and businessmen, many of whom confirmed that Kuzmenko and her accomplices deliberately defrauded the residents of Sacramento.
During the trial, dozens of victims spoke in court, informing about the details of Kuzmenko’s scheme.
According to Nadezhda Shumak (Svyatschuk), she owned a house at 8575 Parkwood Cr. When she decided to sell her house, she received an offer of $750 thousand. However, when the deal was closed, she found out that the bank issued a loan of $880,000 to the fraudsters – they made a fake repair in the house and artificially increased its cost by $130 thousand, putting the difference in their pocket.
Vitaly Bevzyuk owned a house in Roseville, California. In 2006 when his financial situation worsened, he decided to sell his property. Bevzyuk tried to find a buyer with the help of two realtors, without success. Suddenly Vera Kuzmenko became actively involved in the matter, offering her help. According to Bevzyuk, Kuzmenko’s office filled out his tax returns and possessed basic information about his finances.
As a result, the house was sold to one Martin Atoyan for $875 thousand.
One of the “kickbacks” from the proceeds of this transaction, in the amount of $79 thousand, went to Voyager Trucking (owned by Edward Shevtsov). Another, in the amount of $59 thousand, went to Pete’s Pool Services. That said, Bevzyuk argues that there was no pool in sight on the territory of the house. Bevzyuk received only $127 thousand.
The presence of pools was attributed to other houses of those 38 that were part of the fraudulent scheme and were located in the Sacramento area.
Vasiliy Melnik claimed that he did not thoroughly go over and read the documents that he signed because he “trusted” the people who sold him his property. However, Melnik (as well as some other victims) testified whilst under immunity from the court, therefore his words should be accepted with a certain degree of skepticism.
When one of the victims, Natalia Ivankova, turned to Shevtsov with a request for him to give her the money he promised from the sale of her house, the man threatened her with prison.
The scammers also deceived sellers of houses and openly subjected them to blackmail: they were told that they would not be able to sell the house unless they added non-existing renovations to the documents of the transaction being prepared.
This was testified, for example, by Kozmak, who turned to Vera Kuzmenko with a request to set up a house for sale. Kozmak wanted to sell her home for $995,000, but in the end, she was not even given the terms of the contract, and the cunning realtors took back the extra $140,000 that went through the front companies.
“She dragged in immigrants and members of her community, forced them to sign false documents, now some of these immigrants are subject to criminal prosecution, others to deportation,” the representative of Bickley’s prosecutor’s office said about Vera Kuzmenko in the final charge. “She did this to her diaspora … She told people to lie to the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service, and when the FBI agents came to her house, she laughed in their face …”
One of the criminals, Veniamin Markevich, who was allegedly on the run, effectively becoming a fugitive. Edward Shevtsov’s lawyer is attempting to substitute jail time with house arrest for his client, before the decision of the Court of Appeal.
Russian-speaking businessmen contributed to the collapse of world markets
In total, Nadia Kuzmenko received $300,000 from the criminal scheme, Eduard Shevtsov – $1.4 million, Peter Kuzmenko – $1.15 million, Pyotr Bondaruk – over $100thousand. Vera Kuzmenko, the brains of the operation, earned almost $2 million.
In total, our sorry realtors received, according to various estimates, $16 to $30 million in loans and caused damage of $9 million.
Another complication caused by the fraud schemes of the Christian realtors was their victims’ ruined credit scores, which deprived them of any future chances to buy a house.
“The real estate crisis has shaken the Sacramento region. He affected those who live depending on benefits and brought chaos to our devastated areas, – the concluding speech from the prosecutor’s office stated. – “Without people like Pyotr Bondaruk, who abused the system built largely on trust and respect, this would hardly have happened. Such individuals must be isolated from society.”
It is well known that the so-called real estate crisis began precisely with this region of the USA, Sacramento-Stockton, and then spread to the whole world. Indeed, the American media is correct – people from the CIS can be “proud” of their fellow countrymen. Russian-speaking businessmen, to a certain extent, influenced the collapse of world markets.
Ultimately, the overwhelming evidence pointed to the defendants’ guilt and they were sentenced accordingly. Despite the evidence, the realtor group begged for clemency with tears in their eyes without ever directly admitting their guilt.
It is worth recalling that immediately after the arrests happened, Vira Zhiry stated in an interview with Sacramento Bee journalists that “if you conduct a survey, it turns out that many believe that this case is concocted against the Russian community.”
At the final session of the court, Zhiry took her words back.