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Jury Convicts 6 of Smuggling Immigrants

June 27, 2002|JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Six defendants on trial in connection with an elaborate Ukrainian immigrant smuggling ring were found guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

After deliberating for less than three days, the jury reached verdicts against six of the seven people accused of smuggling immigrants from Ukraine into the United States via Mexico, and forcing many of them into prostitution.

The trial, which lasted about seven weeks, included wiretap transcripts and testimony from Ukrainian immigrants who said they were smuggled into the country and several who said they worked as prostitutes for the defendants.

Serge Mezheritsky, 36, of Hollywood; Tetyana Komisaruk, 50, of North Hills; and her husband, Valeriy Komisaruk, 40, were found guilty of smuggling, money laundering, conspiracy and smuggling for the purpose of prostitution.

Tetyana Komisaruk's daughter, Lorina Latyshev, and son-in-law, Oleksander Latyshev, also were found guilty of smuggling. Another defendant, Grigoriy Chernov, who remains free on bail until sentencing, was found guilty of smuggling.

On Wednesday, the jury told Judge Robert Takasugi that it could not reach a unanimous verdict on Nataliya Korolova, another daughter of Tetyana Komisaruk.

A 45-count indictment from the Los Angeles County Grand Jury listed 29 immigrants who paid the defendants thousands of dollars to travel to Mexico and then be brought across the border.

In May, Olena Krivolapchuk, 22, testified that she worked as a prostitute and dancer at a topless club in Los Angeles to repay a $5,000 debt for her trip from Ukraine. Five other defendants previously pleaded guilty. Federal authorities are seeking six fugitives.

The six defendants, who will be sentenced in October, face a minimum of five years in prison.

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