An Israeli businessman who operates kiosks selling mostly beauty products from the Dead Sea in malls around America was indicted last week in Virginia, along with nine other Israelis and three companies. Omer Gur Geiger, 36-years-old, was arrested last week and is being held without bail, local media in Raleigh North Carolina reported. Geiger owns two homes in the city.
The 49-page indictment claims Geiger and others helped at least 140 Israelis work illegally in the United States, bringing them in on tourist visas and then not paying taxes or reporting income for the illegal workers.
The defendants are also charged with helping their illegal workers file fraudulent visa renewal applications saying they were visiting family and friends, and not working.
Geiger and the others charged as well with defrauding some of their own employees, for example by promising them to pay for their transportation to the United States and their housing, but later deducting those costs from their paychecks, as well as not paying taxes and benefits on their pay as required by law. Some employees were not paid in cash but only received gift cards.
Gur, as he is called in the indictment, is charged with 34 counts of "conspiracy to defraud the U.S., visa fraud, encouraging and inducing illegal entry, harboring illegal aliens, transporting illegal aliens and conspiracy to launder money.
His company is allegedly part of larger operation based in Israel, known as Rasko, and it is possible U.S. authorities have other Israelis working in the business in their sights.
Israelis selling Dead Sea products are a common site in many malls all over America, and are often accused of using aggressive sales practices – and high prices.
Prosecutors asked the court to seize assets belonging to the defendants and their companies, including cars and apartments used to house the workers, worth over $14.5 million, a minimum estimate of the amount the companies made over the past five years.
Geiger is a legal permanent resident of the United States, and five of the voter Israelis indicted have temporary residence permits.
The grand jury indictment was field in the federal court in the Eastern District of Virginai in early February, but was kept under seal until last week.
"From at least 2007 through the date of the Indictment, RASKO recruited foreign nationals from Israel to work as employees in its kiosks and stores in malls in the United States. If prospective employees did not have a visa, RASKO personnel offered to assist individuals in obtaining one for travel to the United States. Since 2011, many such workers came to the United States via B-2 visitor visas," the indictment reads.
The other nine named in the indictment are: Boaz Ben Cnaan, Shlomo Genish, Zion Sason, Eyal Katz, Rita Berkovich, Ido Rodes, Guy Mazon, Shimon Mizrahi, and Shai Yona.