North Port residents plead guilty in visa fraud scheme

Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 9:51 AM EST
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NORTH PORT, Fla. (Sun Newspapers) - Two North Port residents face prison time for running a scheme providing fraudulent visas to undocumented workers and funneling them into jobs in the food service and retail industry, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Our coverage partners at the North Port Sun say Larisa Khariton and Jon Clark have pleaded guilty on federal charges relating to recruiting noncitizens to work with illegal visas in food service and retail.

The North Port couple would prepare and submit tourist visas with false and misleading details through a nonprofit they operated, Educational World, or Ed World, according to an April indictment that listed a number of other co-conspirators.

Fees of $650 per application were charged. Educational World was listed as active through April with the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations.

Larisa Khariton is its registered agent. Its place of business is named as North Port.

Khariton, 73, and Clark, 71, worked through Educational World Inc. to process visas, according to DOJ authorities investigating those allegations.

The company, listed with the state as a Foreign Profit Corp., on its website lists programs for exchange applicants and others — several providing testimonials — on how to navigate the visa process and guides on obtaining social security cards, travel insurance and enrolling in school exchange programs, among dozens of such services, all, apparently, legal.

Students from Latvia, Russia, Ukraine, Indonesia and Ghana are pictured on the website thanking Educational World for the opportunity to study abroad.

Department of Justice authorities, however, said Khariton, Clark and others involved in the scheme would circumvent the immigration rules by enticing noncitizen laborers to exchange temporary visitor for tourist visas and place them in jobs such as housekeeping, according to the federal agency, or gaming the system to import illegal workers and placing them in menial jobs, sometimes for referral fees.

Those workers would overstay temporary visas or were listed as unauthorized to work in the country. Their status was not addressed in the original indictments dating to April.

Khariton and Clark admitted to conspiracy charges in October. They face up to five years in prison at sentencing for “engaging in deceitful and dishonest conduct,” according to DOJ authorities.

Prosecutors say Khariton and Clark admitted to receiving commissions for funneling illegal workers to Regal Hospitality Solutions LLC, a Louisiana staffing company. Unnamed Regal staffers were charged with federal wire-fraud related offenses.

Educational World Inc. in several instances is listed as a North Port-based enterprise. Khariton and Clark had a history in nonprofits and business, including an organization called Allied Care Foundation, listed with the Division of Corporations as inactive.

Its incorporation articles detailed its purpose as promoting “social welfare by providing care to those who are ill or in physical need.”

Other companies and nonprofits sourced to the Division of Corporations and listing Khariton or Clark as directors surfaced over the years, including EF Services & Management Inc., and Clariton Property Solutions LLC, all with North Port addresses.

A media release with Cambridge Who’s Who had also listed a “Dr. Khariton” as president of Education & Employment Exchange. That Foundation provided “consulting services, placement for students and individuals and placement to temporary jobs and educational opportunities,” according to the October 2008 release.

Cambridge Who’s Who listed itself as an “exclusive membership organization that recognizes and empowers executives.”

Educational World was first incorporated in Ohio in July 1996, according to documents filed in 2005, which by then had shifted things to North Port.

Its purpose in 1996 was “placement,” with Khariton named as the registered agent, president, treasurer and chairman. Placement is not described in those incorporation documents.

Clark had several roles, as well. He’s also listed in Florida a licensed real estate agent.

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