Adoption firm loses civil case

Relates to:
Date: 2006-07-16

By DAVID RYAN, Register Staff Writer

Napa prosecutors are looking to the sale of a local house later this month to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursement for victims of a defunct Napa adoption firm.

Prosecutors won a $368,000 default civil judgment July 11 against Ivan Jerdev, former president of adoption firm Yunona USA. The majority of which will go to reimburse 118 victims across the country who allege Yunona offered orphans for adoption who never available. About $60,000 will be paid out in civil penalties for violating state business laws.

Yet Jerdev won't pay a dime out of his own pocket because he is in Russia, reportedly facing child trafficking charges. A default judgment occurs when civil defendants fail to appear in court to defend themselves, but the other party delivers enough evidence to convince a judge to make a ruling.

To get money from Jerdev, local prosecutors are instead turning to his U.S. estate.

Jerdev's house at 121 Legacy Court will be sold at a July 31 foreclosure sale auction at the historic Napa County Courthouse, where prosecutors are set to gain proceeds to reimburse victims, Deputy District Attorney Richard Zimmerman said.

"We can't actually sell the house per se," he said, but added a lien placed against the house would ensure that profits from the creditors' foreclosure sale would be used to reimburse victims as well as pay off creditors.

Still, the $368,000 judgment is a far cry from the more than $1.1 million prosecutors had been seeking in June, when Napa Superior Court Judge Raymond Guadagni told prosecutors to come up with more evidence against Jerdev.

Until then, prosecutors had been relying on reports of victim interviews by Napa Police Detective Ron Appel -- who is gathering evidence for criminal charges -- instead of sworn witness statements, making Appel's reports hearsay according to the law, prosecutors said at the time.

Also in June, prosecutors dropped their civil lawsuit against former Yunona officers Nicholas Sims and Alex Nikolenko. Both men had said they had no connection to any wrongdoing.

Zimmerman said he couldn't say for sure why Deputy District Attorney Daryl Roberts, who heads up the case but is currently away on vacation, decided to reduce the amount the state is seeking against Jerdev.

"I'm assuming they couldn't get declarations or it's conceivable that the asset only comes to that amount," Zimmerman said.

Theoretically, Roberts would have had to obtain 118 separate sworn statements from victims around the country to add up enough in provable victim losses to match the $1.1 million claim. Roberts previously expressed doubt that all the victims would cooperate.

"Unfortunately, a lot of the victims are too embarrassed to do anything," Roberts said in June.

Public documents filed by the Simi Valley-based Recon Trust Company show creditors are owed more than $424,000 on Jerdev's house. While it's not certain what the final auction bid on the modest tract home will be, it will have to sell for nearly $793,000 for the victims, the state and the creditors to get all their money.

The auction is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. at the Brown Street entrance of the historic Napa County courthouse.

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