Queens Woman Sentenced to 25 Months in Prison for Leadership Role in Visa Fraud, Identity Theft and Human Smuggling Scheme
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
BROOKLYN, NY – Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Stella Boyadjian was sentenced by United States Chief District Judge Margo K. Brodie to 25 months in prison for her role in a multi-year visa fraud, identity theft, and immigrant smuggling conspiracy that brought Armenian citizens into the United States for profit. Boyadjian pleaded guilty in March 2019 to conspiracy to defraud the United States, commit visa fraud, and unlawfully bring aliens to the United States, visa fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Nicole M. Argentieri, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and Carlos F. Matus, Director of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), announced the sentence.
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.
Boyadjian ran a non-profit organization called Big Apple Music Awards (BAMA) Foundation based in Rego Park, Queens. She used the BAMA 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 $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 appear to be traditional Armenian performers. After being trained by Boyadjian and her conspirators on how to answer questions from USCIS visa adjudicators, 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 overstayed their visas and remained unlawfully in the United States.
The DSS’ Criminal Fraud Investigations and Overseas Criminal Investigations Divisions investigated the case, with assistance from the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security, Center Fraud Detection Operations in Vermont.
Assistant United States Attorney John O. Enright of the Eastern District of New York and Rami S. Badawy, Chief of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section are in charge of the prosecution.
Danielle Blustein Hass
United States Attorney's Office
Updated January 30, 2024