- #UkraineNightmare: “If you still have concerns … give Lisa Kenna or S a call …” .
- Read: Text Msgs From Ambassadors Volker, Sondland, Taylor, and Others on #UkraineNightmare
According to a source in the room for William Taylor’s deposition, the longtime career government official’s opening statement was 15 pages long and prompted “a lot of sighs and gasps” inside the room https://t.co/ycESFISZuo
— POLITICO (@politico) October 22, 2019
Bill Taylor was subpoenaed this AM, per official working on the impeachment inquiry because of an “attempt by the State Department to direct Ambassador William Taylor not to appear for his scheduled deposition, and efforts by the State Department to also limit any testimony”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) October 22, 2019
NEWS: State Dept. official Bill Taylor has been asked to appear at a deposition next TUESDAY, according to the letter obtained by NBC News w/ @HeidiNBC
Taylor is critical to Dems case. He wrote in a text that it was “crazy” to hold military aid for a political investigation pic.twitter.com/CKjN9I2vBT
— Leigh Ann Caldwell (@LACaldwellDC) October 16, 2019
Amb Bill Taylor came out of retirement to lead the US embassy in Kiev, but it took some convincing to get him to take the job. He finally took it & months later questioned the withholding of security assistance. W/ @jmhansler ahead of Taylor testimony tmrw https://t.co/koEL7aFckb
— Kylie Atwood (@kylieatwood) October 21, 2019
"Self-Dealing in Ukraine: The Core of the Impeachment Inquiry," the latest from Philip Zelikow: https://t.co/xIvIP8r7tU
— Lawfare (@lawfareblog) October 21, 2019
Armenian Citizen Pleads Guilty for His Role in For-Profit U.S. Visa Fraud Scheme
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.”
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.
In February 2018, Stella Boyadjian of Rego Park, New York; Atoyan; and Diana Grigoryan, aka “Dina Akopovna,” 42, of the Republic of Armenia were charged in a 15-count indictment with visa fraud and with conspiracy to: defraud the United States, commit visa fraud, and illegally bring aliens into the United States. Boyadjian and Grigoryan were also charged with related money laundering charges, and Boyadjian was charged with aggravated identity theft. Boyadjian previously pleaded guilty on March 4, 2019 in the Eastern District of New York.
As alleged in the indictment, Boyadjian ran a non-profit organization called Big Apple Music Awards Foundation (BAMA) based in Rego Park, New York. Boyadjian used the Big Apple Music Awards Foundation as well as formal and informal music industry contacts in the United States and Armenia to perpetuate the scheme. Atoyan, Boyadjian, and others solicited Armenian citizens who wanted to come to the United States and charged them between $3,000 and $10,000 to be included on the Form I-129 Petitions. Boyadjian and other associates in Armenia then acquired fraudulent performer certificates and organized staged photo sessions where the aliens wore traditional Armenian folk outfits to make it appear as though they were traditional Armenian performers. After being trained how to defeat U.S. visa interviews, 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. As alleged in the indictment, Atoyan himself came to the United States on a P-3 visa obtained in connection with a Form I-129 submitted by BAMA.
On October 21, the State Department issued a Travel Advisory for Lebanon. The advisory is a Level 3 Reconsider Travel due to to crime, terrorism, armed conflict and civil unrest. Excerpt:
U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Lebanon should be aware that consular officers from the U.S. Embassy are not always able to travel to assist them. The Department of State considers the threat to U.S. government personnel in Beirut sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under strict security restrictions. The internal security policies of the U.S. Embassy may be adjusted at any time and without advance notice.
The Lebanese government cannot guarantee the protection of U.S. citizens against sudden outbreaks of violence. Family, neighborhood, or sectarian disputes can escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with no warning. Armed clashes have occurred along the Lebanese borders, in Beirut, and in refugee settlements. The Lebanese Armed Forces have been brought in to quell the violence in these situations.
People across Lebanon have been protesting for 5 days against corruption and the economic crisis. Hundreds of thousands marched in Beirut, its biggest protests in 10+ years: pic.twitter.com/uNjShO0EVo
— AJ+ (@ajplus) October 21, 2019
This is how many people were in central Beirut today.
Are you getting their message? pic.twitter.com/PwTLm2RbFq
— Jad Chaaban د. جاد شعبان (@JadChaaban) October 20, 2019
— Rami Rizk (@rami_rizk) October 20, 2019
— Ali Hashem علي هاشم (@alihashem_tv) October 22, 2019
More sights and sounds of Beirut protests pic.twitter.com/utkwue8hjd
— Dion Nissenbaum (@DionNissenbaum) October 21, 2019