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Three Armenians indicted in USA for visa fraud

13 Feb

YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 9, ARMENPRESS. The U.S. Department of Justice said three US-based Armenians have been indicted for illegally  providing visas to Armenian citizens that brought them to the country.

The Department of Justice issued a statement, saying:

“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.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue of the Eastern District of New York and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Christian J. Schurman for U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security and Director for Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), made the announcement.

Stella Boyadjian, 47, of Rego Park, New York; Hrachya Atoyan, 30, or Glendale, California; and Diana Grigoryan aka “Dina Akopovna,” 41, of the Republic of Armenia, were changed in a 15-coutn indictment unsealed yesterday in federal count in Brooklyn with multiple counts of visa fraud and with conspiracy to defraud the United States, commit visa fraud, and illegally bring 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. Atoyan’s initial appearance for removal proceedings to the Eastern District of New York is scheduled for later today, in the Central District of California.

“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.”

“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 Donoghue. “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 not face the music for their alleged crimes.”

“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 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 the 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.

This case was a joint investigation by the DSS’s Criminal Fraud Investigations and Overseas Criminal Investigations Divisions with assistance from the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security, Center Fraud Detection Operations in Vermont. Trial Attorney Sasha N. Rutizer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney  David Gopstein of the Eastern District of New York are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.