Three women, including one who is still on the lam, were charged on Thursday for allegedly running a visa fraud scheme out of a purported performing arts organization based in Rego Park.
Stella Boyadjian, 47, of Rego Park, and Hrachya Atoyan, 30, of Glendale, CA, were charged on multiple counts of visa fraud and with conspiring 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.
“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,” stated United States Attorney Richard 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 now face the music for their alleged crimes.”
Boyadjian was arraigned on Wednesday, Feb. 7, and pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on a $150,000 bond. Hrachya Atoyan will be appear for a removal hearing on Feb. 8 in the Central District of California. Diana Grigoryan, 41, of Yerevan, Armenia, also known as “Dina Akopovna,” is said to be involved in the scheme and remains at large.
According to charges, Boyadjian, Atoyan and Grigoryan were allegedly running a visa fraud scheme to illegally bring foreign nationals into the United States by fraudulently claiming to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that they were members of traditional Armenian performance groups and thus qualified for P-3 visas as “culturally unique” artists or entertainers.
The P-3 non-immigrant 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 United States 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.
According to the indictment, Boyadjian ran a nonprofit organization called Big Apple Music Awards Foundation Inc. (BAMA) in Rego Park. She and her co-conspirators allegedly used the organization to further their scheme by soliciting the foreign nationals and charging them fees ranging from $3,000 to $15,000 per applicant. With the fees, they allegedly obtained P-3 visas fraudulently by submitting false Forms I-129 and supporting documents to the USCIS.
Upon approval of the Form I-129 petitions, the women and their co-conspirators acquired fraudulent dance certificates. The P-3 visa applicants were allegedly trained how to falsely answer questions during visa interviews and presented these fake certificates and photos during their P-3 visa interviews.
Once in the United States, some beneficiaries of the P-3 visas paid the defendants an additional fee to be included in applications for extensions of their fraudulently obtained visas. The defendants allegedly furthered their scheme by creating flyers and other documents regarding BAMA-sponsored concerts and events in the United States.