United States citizen Stella Boyadjian and Armenian citizens Diana Grigoryan aka “Dina Akopovna” and Hrachya Atoyan were recently indicted by a U.S. Federal Grand Jury for their alleged roles in a visa fraud operation that illegally brought Armenian citizens to the United States for profit. The indictment includes charges of conspiracy, visa fraud, money laundering, aggravated identity theft, and illegally bringing aliens into the United States.
The joint investigative efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service send a strong message that the abuse of U.S. visas is a national security concern that will not be tolerated. Transnational organized crime profiting from travel document fraud is troubling, as is the exploitation of Armenian cultural heritage and the use of others’ identities and false qualifications to support criminal activities.
The indictment alleges Boyadjian, Akopovna, and Atoyan specifically targeted the U.S. P-3 “Culturally Unique Artist” nonimmigrant visa category to commit fraud – a visa category often sought by legitimate Armenian artists, musicians, dancers, and other performers to travel to the United States to showcase important aspects of Armenia’s rich cultural heritage to the American people. Regrettably, cases like this subject legitimate U.S.-Armenian cultural exchange opportunities to further scrutiny.
The organizers of the visa fraud scheme allegedly solicited and obtained fraudulent documents, produced staged photos of applicants in traditional Armenian dance costumes, and coached applicants on how to provide false information during their visa interviews in Armenia. Presenting false qualifications during U.S. visa interviews hinders the Department of State’s ability to properly assess applicants’ true qualifications and creates opportunities for the international travel of criminals, fugitives, and terrorists threatening the public safety of the United States and other countries. In addition, the misrepresentation of material facts during U.S. visa interviews can result in permanent ineligibility to receive a visa.
Our efforts to combat visa fraud continue. U.S. consular officers will adjudicate visa applications in full accordance with U.S. immigration law and regulations, balancing the desire to facilitate legitimate travelers with the protection of U.S. national security. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Justice and Diplomatic Security Service will ensure that those who profit from exploiting U.S. visa systems are brought to justice.
All those charged in this and other cases are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Following their arrests in the United States, Boyadjian and Atoyan are afforded due process and will appear before a U.S. Court to face the charges against them. Akopovna remains a fugitive from the U.S. justice system, and U.S. Embassy Yerevan will support efforts to hold her accountable. This case remains under investigation.