Fake Russian college students on the Cherokee, NC Reservation – Part Two

A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokees Tribal Council, who was also an administrator of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, worked for years with the Russian Mafia to import young people with fake student visas into Western North Carolina! Undoubtedly, many were or became Russian FSB spies, who then spread out into other parts of the United States.

In this Creek fireside story, you will learn how I was busted by the SWAT squad of the Cherokee Tribal Police, permanently banned from the North Carolina Cherokee Reservation and became known to all good Southern Baptist Christian, Jawja police as “a predator of young womenz.”

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

One of the buildings that I designed at Windy Gap

Living the life of a John Gresham novel

Jasper, GA – May 2006 – I was on (as they say) on Cloud Nine and had no clue that a black storm cloud was approaching. I had fancy new Ford Explorer XLT. Susan was coming to be with me permanently in late June. She had finally admitted that we had a son and daughter. Our family, along with Rob Roy the Wonder Dog, were then going to tour the United States for the remainder of the summer.

I was anxious to get out of Georgia ASAP, because of the constant harassment of me and my architecture clients by Neo-Nazi thugs within the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The Atlanta FBI had done nothing to protect me from either crooked cops or regular criminals.

A couple, living in Sao Paulo, Brazil, had murdered two other witnesses from the Georgetown Hearings in Knoxville, TN. We were supposed to be under the Federal Witness Protection Program.

A US Asst. District Attorney in Knoxville telephoned me to warn me that I might be next and to give me their names. He then emailed their photos. They were both middle-aged, short, plump and rather wussy looking. No one would expect them to be experienced international assassins, who had killed over a 100 persons. Of course, some bottom-feeder in Georgia law enforcement was listening to the telephone conversation with the US Dept. of Justice attorney, but what could I do?

A year later, the Brazilian assassins bought one way first class Delta tickets to Atlanta with my Visa card number then cashed out the balance of the card at a bank in Sao Paulo. They then headed to Atlanta to go after me. The couple had federal murder warrants out on them. Both Visa’s security people and I demanded their interception at the Atlanta Airport. The Atlanta Area FBI office did nothing.

It was clear that someone or some agency in the Bush Administration had contracted the assassins to kill all 25 witnesses in the Georgetown Hearings. Today, I may be the only living witness. After seeing the two chubby Brazilians in Downtown Cartersville, GA., I took appropriate action to make sure that they would have unpleasant memories of their time in Georgia.

Susan had saved up a vast amount of cash and stock investments, because her top secret job in national security paid very, very well and the US Government paid her living expenses, whenever she was on assignment. I had $46,000 equity in my house, plus it had increased in value about $30,000. If we all got along in the Silver Explorer, we would be able to buy a VERY NICE historic farm near Winchester, VA or Frederick, MD. She intended to do part-time consulting work in National Security after we moved near Washington, DC.

Model of Etowah Mounds for the Muscogee-Creek Nation (6 ft. x 8 ft.)

Despite all the past drama, the architecture practice was going well. I had a large contract with the Muscogee-Creek Nation to research the Etowah River Valley and build a huge model of Etowah Mounds. I also had been retained to design several buildings at the Windy Gap Young Life Camp near Weaverville, NC [near Asheville]. It was close to the farm, where I had lived from 1978 to 1987. The project required several trips, where I reconnected with long time friends in Asheville.

Things were a bit strange at the Georgia Trail of Tears Association. William Rogers, our highly respected President and descendant of Will Rogers the Cherokee comedian, had been killed in a one car accident in Riverdale, GA . . . a couple of miles from my parents’ home. He had not been driving fast. It was on a slow-moving downtown street. There were no major physical injuries . . . no evidence of a heart attack or stroke . . . but he was, nevertheless, dead, when the police arrived a couple of minutes later.

The TOTA chapter Vice President became the President and I was elected Vice President. Then the new President became incapacitated with a brain cancer a few months later and I became acting President. I had to learn more Cherokee history real quick in order to adequately represent the multi-tribal nature of our organization.

Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, NC

The Russian Mafia in Cherokee, NC

On the way back from an early morning visit to watch concrete being poured at a construction site at Windy Gap, the timing was perfect to eat lunch on the reservation then visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.   Since 1976,  my favorite hunger-solving place in Cherokee had been a barbecue restaurant owned by the Arneche family. 

Chief Arneche had been head of the Qualla (Cherokee) Housing Authority, when I was its land planning consultant in 1976.  His board never went along with any of my suggestions.  I didn’t realize until 2019 that Arneche is a Sephardic Jewish family name.  Hm-m-m

The barbecue restaurant building was unoccupied, when I arrived that day.   I asked around neighboring businesses and was told that the owners of the restaurant had sold the business to some man from New Jersey.  The new owner had built a large, modern barbecue restaurant across the highway in a shopping center.  The Arneche family had moved away from the reservation over disgust with the corruption caused by the gambling casino.

The new barbecue restaurant was top-notch esthetically.   The barbecue itself proved to be mediocre.  I was greeted at the entrance by two, really pretty natural blond gals of college age.  They had foreign accents and looked either Swedish or Finnish.  I asked them if they were Swedish.  They jointly said, “No, we are from Southern Russia, y’all.”  They had been asked that question before.

My waitress was Latin American. I will not use her name, because she may still live in this region.  She instantly liked me and almost immediately . . . bashfully asked me where I was from.  She said that I looked and acted really different than most of the men that dined at the restaurant.  She said that I didn’t look Cherokee, but didn’t either look like the whites here or even Latin Americans.

She later told me that she was from Venezuela (Venezuela was prosperous back then.)  She had been married to a professor at nearby Western Carolina University and had two kids.  He repeatedly fooled around with college coeds there . . . which eventually got him fired and divorced.  She had a teaching degree from a Venezuelan university, but North Carolina would not give her a license, unless she obtained a degree there.  She had to work as a waitress to pay her bills, while getting a degree from WNC.   

I told her that in the Atlanta Area, she could have gotten a bilingual teaching job immediately with a temporary license . . . making the equivalent today of $85,000 a year  . . . and the State of Georgia would have paid for the college courses, necessary for a permanent teaching license.   Her eyes lit up.  She said that she would love to move to a place, where there were educated Latin Americans and more educated people in general.

I noticed that there seemed to be no Cherokee employees in the restaurant and very few Cherokee customers.  I added, “You know, I was in a few other shops before coming in the restaurant.  There were no Cherokees working in those stores.  All the managers and employees seemed to be from eastern Europe.”  

She affirmed my observation then pointed back to the kitchen.  The only Cherokee employees were teenage boys, who washed the dishes and mopped the floors.  She was one of the few employees, who was not Slavic.  A few of the older waitresses, looked Latin American.   

Then she dropped a bombshell.  “A Cuban girl from Miami and I are the only legal employees working here.  The other people are here on college student visas that say they are fulltime students from Russia. However, none of them are from Russia.  They are from countries like Poland, Ukraine, Slovenia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. The Russians view themselves as the masters and all other nations the slaves. They consider the Poles to be next below them.  That is why many of the stores and restaurants have Polish managers.  We do.  These people are the slaves of the owner, who is from Russia, but he does not have to be an American citizen, since he owns the restaurant.” 

She continued, “I understand that there are over 1200 young men and women here in Cherokee, who are slaves of the Russians. These people are not even paid by the restaurant, other than tips.  He pays their salaries to relatives in Asheville, who have citizenship or visas then they give some of the money back to the waiters in cash.”

None of the people other than me attend college.   Western Carolina University gets to count them as students, but these people do not go to classes.  Western Carolina even gives them grades in classes that have ghost professors.”  She giggled.

She continued, “Most of the girls try to get money for sex when they can.  They get a free place to live in, but the money they receive will not pay for much more than food.  At the same time, they are trying to find a rich American man to marry.  I tell the stupid little girls . . . men who pay you for sex are not going to marry you . . . ever!”

She continued, “The smartest, prettiest girls brag that they are getting enough money during the rest of the year to buy nice cars by being spies.  The Russian government pays them a lot of money to have sex with important men and then drug the men, so they can get information from them.  Many of these special girls end up marrying these important men, so they can be permanent spies.” 

She was making a point of coming back to my table any time, she didn’t have serve food . . . especially, when she learned that she could speak Spanish to me and I would understand most. Eventually, she got up the courage to ask me, “Are you married?”   I said no.

She continued, “It is very special for me to get to talk to you. You are intelligent and a gentleman.  All the men I ever meet are either silly college boys,  rednecks or men your age, who think I am a prostitute. I get off work at five.  I have an unmarried friend.  We take care of each other’s children.  How would you like to meet me at the La Poblano Mexican Restaurant in Bryson City?  I will pay for my meal. Well, you can give me a nice tip to help me out.”  <she winked>

I told her that I had to head back to Jasper and get back to architecture work.  “Perhaps I could return through Cherokee late in the afternoon the next time I go to Asheville on work.”   Knowing that Susan was finally getting together with me in about six weeks,  I really didn’t even plan to do that.

She blurted out, “I live in Cullowhee!  I can tell that you know that I am a lady, not una puta! Here . . .” she quickly wrote her full name, full address, telephone number and email address . . . “You call me first then I can call you.   I will cook you a wonderful Venezuelan meal.  You can bring the wine.”  

Just as she thrust the contact information in my hand, she saw diners waving for her to come their table.  I was finished with the meal and so headed toward the entrance to get my free ice cream dessert.  It was served by the two pretty young girls from “Southern Russia.”

Busted by the Cherokee Tribal Police

As I approached the ice cream bar, I heard the two girls speaking definite Finnish words.  So, when we faced each other, I said with a friendly smile, “Hei mitä kuuluu?” (Hey! How are you?)  . . . then ordered my two scoops of Butter Pecan ice cream in English.  That is ALL I said.

Rather than returning a bashful smile, they freaked out and turned white as ghosts.  While one terrified girl filled my ice cream cone, the other raced to the kitchen.  The Polish manager came back through the door with her.  She pointed to me then he dashed inside.

I hadn’t even gotten back to my table, when a big, burly Russian man pulled up to the entrance door in his Lincoln Continental.  He was quickly followed by four SUV’s of the Cherokee Tribal Police SWAT squad . . . lights flashing.  Many diners got up to see what was happening outside.  All that I could see from my table was the big Russian talking to a SWAT cop, who didn’t look Native American at all. 

The SWAT came into the restaurant, armed with assault rifles.  I got this bad feeling, but didn’t stare at them so they would not immediately assume that I was concerned about their presence.  They surrounded my table. The man, who looked like a pure-blooded white man, clearly had a New Jersey accent when saying something on his radio.  Then he turned toward me and growled.

What are you doing here?”

I kept on eating my ice cream and with my best Georgia Educated Southern English said, “Eating ice cream.”

He turned red-faced and screamed, “Don’t you sass me man.  I can arrest you now for creating a public disturbance. What are you doing on our reservation? Let me see your driver’s license.

Continuing to stay calm, as I was handing him the driver’s license, I asked, “What disturbance?  There has been no disturbance here. Is this how you normally treat Creek Indians when they spend money at your reservation? I had PLANNED to eat lunch here then visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian to see the new exhibit on the Trail of Tears.  Do you want to see my references?“

This is Federal District Judge Patrick Moore’s card.”

This is Muscogee Creek Nation Second Chief, Alfred Berryhill’s card”

I then handed him my TOTA card, which listed me as President of the Georgia Trail of Tears Association. In the process, I spied Susan Karlson’s old FBI business card from 1991.   “Oh, and this lady has been my secret lover for 15 years . . . FBI Special Agent Susan Karlson.  Do you want to talk to her?”

Accustomed to bullying and beating their own people, when they were drunk, they were visibly shaking from encountering someone, who seemed not to be the least fearful of them.

The Cherokee cops pulled back from the table and huddled.  The white guy with the New Jersey accent called a number on one of the cards.  I don’t know which one.  Apparently, that person vouched for me.  He came back to the table by himself.  No longer yelling he said, “Well, finish your ice cream and leave the Cherokee Reservation immediately.  If you ever come back on the reservation, we will arrest you!”

After the SWAT cops left,  the Venezuelan gal came up to my table. She laughed and said, “That is the first time that we have ever seen the Cherokee cops scaredThey now think that you are some sort Creek Indian – James Bond government agent.”  

Richard, how do you know Estonian?  No one in North Carolina knows Estonian.”

I said, “Huh?  Oh . . . Estonian is a dialect of Finnish.  I just said hello to themDid you hear that I can never come back to the Cherokee Reservation?”

She answered, “Yes, it doesn’t matter. I hate working here.  Give me a telephone call and you can drive straight to my house.  You are very interesting man.  I  want to know you betterThe reason that you scared the Estonian girls is that they got in the country with a fake Russian passport. Because you spoke Estonian, they thought that you were a government agent. ”

She then explained, “Those two Estonian girls may look sweet and innocent, but they like men and women, always work together and get at least a thousand dollars a night. The restaurant owner charges the man $2000. They are also spies for Russia. They fly to other parts of U.S. and world for sex, but pay no income taxes.  If caught, they won’t be thrown out of the United States.  They will be put in prison.”


I felt guilty about accepting the contact information from the Venezuelan lady, but held on to the note, she gave me, without ever calling her.  I threw away the note just before Susan was due to arrive, but Susan never arrived.  The truth was that I liked her better than any woman I had met, after moving back to Georgia.  She was also very attracted to me and was definitely prime wife material.  Unfortunately, either she had an unlisted number or her phone was listed under a different last name than she told me. C’est la vie.

  • I used my new cellular phone to call the US Immigration and Naturalization Service regional office in Atlanta the day after I was in Cherokee, NC.  I was passed from bureaucrat to bureaucrat to tell what I had seen and heard.  Finally, I got high enough on the pecking order to be told by an administrator, “Mr. Thornton, your Venezuelan girlfriend had a vivid imagination.   There is no way that such a large scale violation of United States immigration laws could occur, without our investigators knowing about it. Our Asheville, NC office works very closely with the Cherokee Tribe to insure that all Federal laws are complied with.”
  • On the highways to each Georgia Trail of Tears Association meeting in July, August and September, jet black SUV’s and pickups with black-tinted windows and North Carolina license plates tried to cause me have a fatal wreck.  They did it twice before the September meeting.  The second time involved a large hay wagon being pushed in front of my car.   Immediately, thereafter I resigned from the president’s job and TOTA.   I was replaced by a man in Georgia, who was a contract employee of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  
  • I got really, really mad in early 2007, when a group of Cherokee officials drove down from North Carolina and bullied Georgia officials into removing all books and art from the Etowah Mound Museum that were created by Creek Indians. My work was some of those redacted. I contacted Washington, DC and this time sent them a photo of a major Russian Mafia surveillance operation center, east of the reservation and adjacent to I-40. That seems to have worked.

The director of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service office in Asheville, NC was arrested for creating bogus college student visas for several young adults from the Slavic countries.  She also had to resign her position as a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council.

Now you know!


  1. Yeah, that’s rez cops. Good thing Nana’s granny was run off the rez. she found a lot more freedom in West Virginia (then still part of VA). All I can say is God bless and may your scars not bother overmuch. We call ours beauty marks. niio

    Liked by 1 person

  2. OMG ! Richard, I would have been scared to death, how you managed to get out of this situation I don’t know, except of course with your up to date credentials. I would have loved seeing that Museum. Thanks again for a most interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Rita, if you read my online book, The Shenandoah Chronicles, by 2006, I had experienced about every scary thing, one could experience . . . including having bullets whiz by my head so close that I could feel the wind. I knew that bullies are like coyotes. They only attack when their prey shows fear.


      1. One cold, snowy night, I was in a fire fight with 8 US Army Rangers. I won. My only combat experience is with US soldiers. LOL I buried myself about 18 inches under the snow and let them walk over me – then attacked from the rear.

        Liked by 3 people

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