A man residing in Glendale, California, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to unlawfully bring in aliens and visa fraud for his role in a multi-year visa fraud scheme that brought Armenian citizens into the United States for profit.
Hrachya Atoyan, 32, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sanket J. Bulsara in the Eastern District of New York. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 20, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Margo K. Brodie. According to the indictment, Atoyan allegedly participated in 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.
“Exploiting the P-3 non-immigrant visa classification system for culturally unique artist and entertainers makes a mockery out of the legitimate performers for whom that visa was intended,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “We will work hand in hand with our law enforcement partners to rid the system of fraudsters, like Mr. Atoyan and his co-conspirators, who seek to take advantage of and profit from our immigration system.”
“Atoyan’s guilty plea brings down the curtain on an elaborate visa fraud scheme to falsely portray applicants as artists and entertainers in order to circumvent our country’s P-3 visa program,” said U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue of the Eastern District of New York.
“The Diplomatic Security Service builds strong teams overseas and in the United States to protect the integrity of all U.S. visas and travel documents – especially those, like the P-3 visa, which allow for entertainers to visit the United States to perform in culturally unique events and deepen our understanding of different cultures,” said Todd J. Brown, Director of the Diplomatic Security Service. “DSS values our partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement agencies around the world to prevent and jointly combat U.S. passport and visa fraud. Deterring, detecting, and investigating U.S. passport and visa fraud is essential to safeguarding our national security.”