Three individuals were indicted in the Eastern District of New York for their alleged roles in a multi-year fraud scheme that brought Armenian citizens into the United States for profit, reports The Department of Justice.
Stella Boyadjian, Hrachya Atoyan, and Diana Grigoryan are the three Armenians who are being charged with 15 counts of fraud, including multiple counts of visa fraud with conspiracy to defraud the United States, commit visa fraud, and illegally brings aliens into the United States.
Boyadjian and Grigoryan are also charged with related money laundering charges, and Boyadjian is charged with aggravated identity theft. Boyadjian was arraigned yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein.
“Fraudsters who undermine our immigration system threaten our public safety and our national security,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan. “The Justice Department will not tolerate abuses of our nation’s immigration laws like those alleged in the indictment unsealed today. We will root out immigration fraud and bring those responsible to justice.”
The three apparently created traditional dance costumes and created fake concert flyers in order to receive a government program that allows foreign nationals to temporarily enter the United States as artistic performers, said U.S. Attorney Donoghue.
The Justice Department said how they are committed to solving this problem and never allowing a slip up like this to happen again so other entertainers can come to the country without persecution.
“The Diplomatic Security Service is firmly committed to protecting the integrity of all U.S. visas and travel documents — especially those, like the P-3 visa, which allow for entertainers to visit the United States to perform in culturally unique events and deepen our understanding of different cultures,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Schurman. “This case is the result of a strong partnership among federal law enforcement agencies and DSS’ global network of special agents working together to stop visa and passport crimes and stop criminals from earning illegal income by exploiting U.S. visas, passports, and foreign workers.”
According to the unsealed documents, the three Armenians are engaged in a widespread visa fraud scheme to bring Armenian citizens into the U.S. by falsely claiming them to be U.S. citizens and convincing Immigration services that the Armenians were members of folk performance groups, and thus qualified under the P-3 “culturally Unique Artist” visa.
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 were in the U.S., they would continue to pay Boyadjian to help continue applying for P-3 visa extensions, or some would just overstay their visas and some are unlawfully still in the U.S.
It certainly is one of the lesser known cases of illegal immigration and fraud heard in the U.S., but it still is violating American laws and taking advantage of the U.S. visa system.