Evgueni Kniazev came to the United States in 1992. He then met, paid $5,000 and married Irina Dubenskaya, who was already a U.S. citizen.
When Kniazev died tragically in the 9/11 attacks, his wife collected $1.4 million from the World Trade Center Victim’s Compensation Fund.
Only, his son, Dennis Vinichenko, is now disputing Dubenskaya’s claim to the financial inheritance. Vinichenko says that the marriage was fraud, arranged to get his father citizenship. Vinichenko claims that Dubenskaya does not deserve the money.
“My father was burned alive,” Vinichenko told the New York Post. “This woman was saying she was my family, and then she took all this money. She wasn’t really his wife. She was just trying to cash in.”
Dubenskaya lives in the Sheepshead Bay home that she and Kniazev shared since 2001. She claims the marriage was real.
“I can’t tell if that was Eugene’s original intention,” she said. “I thought we had a nice marriage. We started living the American dream life. Then he died.”
Others who knew the couple say the marriage may have been a fraud, but it was one that was mutually beneficial.
A friend of the couple, Alexander Teperev said though Kniazev may have initially married Dubenskaya for a green card, he also enjoyed her company.
“It was both,” Teperev said. “It was business, and he liked her, too.”
Dubenskaya claims that Vinichenko has been hounding her and leaving threatening messages on her door.
“I have nothing to hide,” she said. “Dennis got what he was entitled [to]. I respect Eugene. I love him. I just wish he didn’t have a son like that,” she said.
Vinichenko’s former lawyer admits that Dubenskaya is actually entitled to the entire sum.
“She would have technically been entitled to the whole thing, even though the marriage was a sham,” said attorney Brian Schachter. “At the time, I thought it was a decent deal.”
Vinichenko believes the money would be better spent on Kniazev’s family still living in Siberia, and on his newborn son.
Vinichenko was not left out to dry. He received more than $35,000 from her. Vinichenko’s sister, who still lives in Russia, is also due to receive a cut.
The amount the siblings got totaled about $150,000, after legal fees. However, Vinichenko feels that Dubenskaya pushed him to accept the deal by threatening to call the immigration on him because he is here illegally.
“I didn’t like the way the money went,” he said. “Her son got to go to college for free. It wasn’t his son. I felt bad about that. The money wasn’t distributed properly.”
It’s not clear whether or not another suit, or immigration fraud charges, will be brought against either party. Sadly, Kniazev never got the green card he so badly wanted. It arrived in the mail three years after his death.