New York - Stella Boyadjian, 48, of Rego Park, New York pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to unlawfully bring in aliens, visa fraud, and aggravated identity theft before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sanket J. Bulsara in the Eastern District of New York for her role in a multi-year visa fraud scheme that brought Armenian citizens into the United States for profit.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue of the Eastern District of New York and U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Director Christian J. Schurman, made the announcement.
According to the indictment, 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 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.
In February 2018, Boyadjian, Hrachya Atoyan, 31, of Glendale, California; and Diana Grigoryan, aka “Dina Akopovna,” 42, of the Republic of Armenia were charged in a 15-count indictment with visa fraud and with conspiracy to: defraud the United States, commit visa fraud, and illegally bring aliens into the United States. Boyadjian and Grigoryan were also charged with related money laundering charges, and Boyadjian was charged with aggravated identity theft.
As alleged in the indictment, Boyadjian ran a non-profit organization called Big Apple Music Awards Foundation (BAMA) based in Rego Park, New York. Boyadjian used the Big Apple Music Awards Foundation as well as formal and informal 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 $0 and $10,000 to be included on the Form I-129 Petitions. Boyadjian and other associates in Armenia then 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.
Sentencing has not yet been scheduled for Boyadjian.
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.