Thursday, March 7, 2019

USCIS Assists in Case Resulting in the Leader of Non-Profit Music Organization Pleading Guilty in Visa Fraud Scheme

NEW YORK - Yesterday in federal court in Brooklyn, Stella Boyadjian, the operator of a non-profit organization called Big Apple Music Awards Foundation Inc., based in Rego Park, Queens, New York, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bring aliens unlawfully into the United States, visa fraud, and aggravated identity theft.  The guilty plea was entered before United States Magistrate Judge Sanket J. Bulsara.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate assisted in the case, which was a joint investigation by the Diplomatic Security Service’s Criminal Fraud Investigations and Overseas Criminal Investigations Divisions.

Between January 2013 and December 2014, Boyadjian and others engaged in a widespread visa fraud scheme to bring foreign nationals illegally into the United States by fraudulently claiming to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that they were members of traditional Armenian performance groups and thus qualified for P-3 visas as “culturally unique” artists or entertainers.   

The conspirators solicited foreign nationals and, in exchange for fees up to $10,000, prepared and filed fraudulent P-3 visa applications.  In furtherance of the scheme, the conspirators purchased fraudulent documentation to support the applications, including fake dance certificates and staged photo sessions where the foreign nationals wore Armenian dance costumes to make it appear as though they were traditional Armenian musicians, singers and performers.  Once successfully in the United States, some recipients of the fraudulently obtained P-3 visas paid additional fees to the conspirators to obtain extensions of their stays in the United States.  

When sentenced, Boyadjian faces a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment for visa fraud, and an additional mandatory consecutive sentence of two years’ imprisonment for aggravated identity theft.

Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Brian A. Benczkowski, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and Christian J. Schurman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security and Director for Diplomatic Security Service, announced the guilty plea.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David Gopstein and Trial Attorney Sasha N. Rutizer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section.

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