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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Jail Time for Norwegian Asylum Scam

OSLO -- A 39-year-old Russian national was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison Friday for helping his countrymen win Norwegian residency permits under false pretenses.

Igor Nikonov was also ordered to pay 514,000 kroner ($85,600) in fines and compensation to 11 fraud victims, the court ruling said.

Nikonov appealed on the spot.

The Oslo city court ruling said Nikonov, of Saratov, accepted payment from at least 100 people to help them make up stories and identities to gain asylum in Norway.

"A number of witnesses said the accused took payment for his services and that he advised numerous people who wanted to work here to seek asylum under false identities and with false background stories," the ruling said.

The court also said "he threatened to reveal their real identities to the authorities if they did not pay, which he did several times." In one example, Nikonov was accused of advising a Russia man to give a false identity, claim to be from Turkmenistan and say his life was threatened there. Another Russian was advised to claim he was from Uzbekistan and to say his life was in danger there because he was Russian and a Christian.

Nikonov also was sentenced for renting at least four apartments under a false name, then tricking 11 would-be renters into paying deposits for apartments he did not intend to rent. In one case, he took deposits totaling 94,500 kroner ($15,750) from seven people for one apartment.