Four owners and operators of natural beauty and hair kiosks at the Mall of America have been indicted by a federal grand jury for employing foreign citizens who weren't eligible to work in the United States. It's also alleged that the men paid for employees' apartments and drove them to work.
The indictment filed last week in United States District Court in Minneapolis alleges that Avraham Nadivi, Yosi Rachamim, Yehiel Shpitser and Adam Vaknin knowingly recruited foreign citizens on visitor visas to work at kiosks they owned at the mall. All four men originally came to the United States on tourist or visitor visas but have since become legal permanent residents.
The indictment lists seven people ineligible for employment in the United States who worked for the company, Ya & Ya USA, between June 2009 and June 2013. A criminal complaint filed in mid-June describes recruitment of workers from as far away as Israel and California. One of the workers told investigators that Nadivi was aware of the employees' work status.
It also appears that the kiosk owners didn't report some wages to the government. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development told investigators that there are no records of anyone working for Ya & Ya USA for the previous three years. Ya & Ya USA also didn't provide I-9s for a number of employees during a Homeland Security audit in August 2012.
The indictment states that the company paid rent and utilities at employee apartments in Bloomington. Investigators found a $13 a day deduction in the company's payroll system for "rent" for one employee, according to the complaint. An apartment manager told investigators that two vehicles, a black SUV and a luxury sedan, would pick up employees several times a day. The indictment alleges that the cars were leased or owned by the company.
The kiosks at the Mall of America are currently open. Attorney Richard Kyle, who is representing Shpitser in the case, said the majority of the company's employees are U.S. citizens and that the company believes the rest are allowed to legally work.
"Obviously, it's a challenge but they continue to operate at the mall, and are doing their best to make sure that they're in compliance with all laws including our immigration laws with respect to the hiring of their employees," Kyle said. The U.S. Attorney's office in Minnesota declined to comment on the case.
The men's arraignment hasn't yet been scheduled, but Kyle said his client plans to plead not guilty to the charges.