Chico High senior among 4 detained in Russia

Nov 11, 2014 11:29 AM by News Staff

Russian authorities have released three San Jose women and a Chico teenager after they were detained last week for allegedly having improper visas.

According to the Contra Costa Times, San Jose residents Liana Randazzo, 27, Quygen Ngo, 24, and Jennifer Phan, 21, and Chico resident Sterling Winter, 18, were attending an international leadership conference for young adults when they were approached by Russian Police and asked to provide their visas last Thursday.

Russian Police then conducted an extensive interrogation and told the group they were being charged for using their visas for purposes other than what they had marked on their travel documents.

After being charged the four appeared in court that night, the judge continued the case the next day and allowed them to return to their hotel.

With the group facing a warning, a fine, deportation or even jail, two Russian lawyers were hired and U.S. State Department officials based in Russia aided the group as they prepared for a Monday hearing.

During the hearing, Evgeny Velikhov, a renowned Russian scientist and founder of a similar leadership program, testified on the group's behalf.

The group was ultimately fined $100 each for improper documentation. They had another week of meetings they were scheduled to attend, but U.S. officials said it would be best for them to leave immediately.

At this time it is unclear why the Russian government singled out the group, but officials say the group obtained tourist visas when they should have obtained business visas.

Winter's mother told Action News Now that Sterling is currently on the way home and will arrive in San Francisco Tuesday afternoon.

Read more from the Contra Costa Times


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