The Federal Trade Commission is honoring Assistant US Attorney (AUSA) Katherine Kopita of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York with its Criminal Liaison Unit’s Prosecuting Attorney’s Award. The Criminal Liaison Unit (CLU) presents the award regularly to recognize prosecutors who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to consumer protection in partnership with the FTC. The FTC presented the award at a ceremony held in Albany, New York.
AUSA Kopita successfully prosecuted Ivan Chernev for operating a business directory scam. In December 2020, Chernev was sentenced to 68 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. His sentence also included a $1.25 million restitution order. AUSA Kopita worked with the United States Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to build this case, with support from the FTC.
After AUSA Kopita secured indictments against Chernev and two co-conspirators in 2017, she faced the added challenge of locating and extraditing the defendants, who are all foreign nationals. She worked with the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs to extradite Chernev from Italy in 2019, and in May 2022 she also secured extradition of defendant Stefan Chernev. The criminal case against Stefan Chernev is ongoing.
As part of his guilty plea, Ivan Chernev admitted that he and his co-conspirators stole money from more than 1,300 medical providers, schools, and small businesses by claiming that the victims owed money for online directory listings. Chernev admitted that he and his co-conspirators sent false invoices indicating that the victims had ordered these online advertising services, but no such services had been ordered or received. When the victims did not pay these invoices, Chernev and his co-conspirators sent the victims fake collections notices. The invoices and collections notices directed the victims to mail checks to various post office boxes throughout the United States. Those checks were then forwarded to Chernev and his co-conspirators in Quebec, Canada.
The FTC previously sued Ivan Chernev in connection with the same scheme in FTC v. American Yellow Browser, Inc., and obtained a default judgment. The final order banned Ivan Chernev from marketing or selling business directories and directory listings and required him to pay $1.2 million as equitable monetary relief.
The FTC often coordinates with criminal law enforcement to ensure the successful prosecution of fraudsters who prey on American consumers. Since its inception in 2003, the FTC’s CLU has contributed to the successful prosecution of more than 1,000 criminal defendants including fraudulent telemarketers, phantom debt and mortgage relief scammers, immigration fraudsters, and others who prey on American consumers.