Three individuals were indicted in New York for their alleged roles in a multi-year visa fraud scheme that brought Armenian citizens into the United States for profit.
The defendants allegedly gave the Armenians fake dance certificates and staged photos in traditional costumes to qualify for the P-3 Visa program for entertainers, officials said.
Stella Boyadjian, 47, of Rego Park, New York; Hrachya Atoyan, 30, of Glendale, California; and Diana Grigoryan aka “Dina Akopovna,” 41, of the Republic of Armenia, were charged in a 15-count indictment unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn.
They are charged with multiple counts of visa fraud and with conspiracy to defraud the United States, commit visa fraud, and illegally bring aliens into the U.S.
Boyadjian and Grigoryan are also charged with related money laundering charges, and Boyadjian is charged with aggravated identity theft.
“As alleged in the indictment, the defendants choreographed their fraud scheme by dressing visa applicants in traditional dance costumes and creating fake concert flyers in order to deceive a government program that allows foreign nationals to temporarily enter the United States as artistic performers,” said U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue of New York. “As a result of outstanding investigative work and commitment to protecting the integrity of the immigration process by this Office and our law enforcement partners, the defendants will now face the music for their alleged crimes.”
According to the indictment, unsealed today upon the arrest of Boyadjian and Atoyan, Boyadjian led a transnational network of co-conspirators who engaged in a widespread visa fraud scheme to bring Armenian citizens into the United States by fraudulently claiming to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that the Armenians were members of folk performance groups, and thus qualified for P-3 “Culturally Unique Artist” visas.
The P-3 nonimmigrant visa classification allows foreign nationals to temporarily travel to the United States to perform, teach or coach as artists or entertainers, under a program that is culturally unique.
A U.S. employer or sponsoring organization is required to submit a USCIS Form I-129 Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker, along with supporting documentation, attesting that the performances in the United States are culturally unique.
As alleged in the indictment, Boyadjian ran a non-profit organization called Big Apple Music Awards Foundation, based in Rego Park, New York. Boyadjian used the Big Apple Music Awards Foundation as well as formal and informal Armenian music industry contacts in the United States and Armenia to perpetuate the scheme.
Boyadjian and others solicited Armenian citizens who wanted to come to the United States and charged them between $3,000 and $15,000 to be included on the Form I-129 Petitions.
Boyadjian and other associates in Armenia acquired fraudulent performer certificates and organized staged photo sessions where the aliens wore traditional Armenian folk outfits to make it appear as though they were traditional Armenian performers.
After being trained how to defeat U.S. visa interviews, the individual aliens presented these certificates and photos to U.S. consular officers during their visa interviews.
Once the Armenians entered the United States, some would pay Boyadjian and her associates’ additional money to be included in another fraudulent petition asking for P-3 visa extensions. Some aliens have overstayed their visas and remain unlawfully in the United States.