Four Indicted For Conspiring To Unlawfully Harbor, Employ Aliens
MINNEAPOLIS—Recently in federal court, three St. Paul men and a California man were indicted for recruiting foreign nationals who were in or coming to the United States on visitor visas to work at the defendants’ hair and beauty products kiosks at the Mall of America. On July 16, 2013, Avraham Nadivi, age 31, Yehiel Shpitser, age 30, and Adam Vaknin, age 32, all of St. Paul; and Yosi Rachamim, age 31, of Woodland Hills, California, were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit unlawful employment and harboring of aliens, seven counts of unlawful employment of aliens, and four counts of harboring of certain aliens.
The indictment alleges that from September 21, 2009, through June 19, 2013, the defendants conspired with each other and others to hire and recruit the foreign nationals, to harbor them in apartments near the Mall, and to transport them to and from work, to conceal the unlawful employment and harboring from detection. Allegedly, YA & YA USA, Inc., a company operated by the defendants and the owner of the hair and beauty product kiosks at the Mall, did not report the wages of the unauthorized workers.
In August 2012, YA & YA was audited by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (“ICE-HSI”), and the indictment alleges that the defendants did not include employment verification paperwork on several employees. In addition, the defendants allegedly paid for apartments and electricity bills for the employees. The defendants also allegedly purchased and leased several vehicles to transport the employees to and from work.
A visitor visa is a non-immigrant visa for persons who want to enter the U.S. and persons holding such a visa are not authorized to work in the U.S. According to a law enforcement affidavit filed in the case, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has no record for the past three years of any employees of YA & YA, although various individuals have been observed working there.
One of those employees has been indicted in a related case for making false claims in order to obtain lawful permanent resident status and employment authorization. On July 16, 2013, Lihi Aliza Elgrably, age 26, of St. Paul, was charged with one count of visa fraud. Elgrably’s indictment alleges that from January 27 to February 15, 2010, she submitted a petition to adjust her immigration status and allegedly withheld information about her employment with YA & YA.
If convicted, Nadivi, Rachamim, Shpitser, and Vaknin face a potential maximum penalty of ten years in prison on each harboring count, five years on the conspiracy count, and six months on each unlawful employment count. Elgrably faces a potential maximum penalty of ten years. Any sentence will be determined by a federal district court judge.
This case is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, ICE-HSI, and the HSI-led multi-agency Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laura M. Provinzino and Sarah E. Hudleston.
To learn more about the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, visit http://www.ice.gov/document-benefit-fraud/.
An indictment is a determination by a grand jury that there is probable cause to believe that offenses have been committed by a defendant. A defendant, of course, is presumed innocent until he or she pleads guilty or is proven guilty at trial.