Four Israeli natives await motion hearings Thursday on 12 felony charges after unlawfully employing young Israelis at Mall of America kiosks. The three Natural Beauty and Hollywood Hair Extensions kiosks are owned by Ya & Ya, Inc., and were still open as of Monday evening according to American Jewish World.
The indictment states that the defendants kept the young Israeli employees (there are believed to be six of them in connection to this case, although names have not been released) in an apartment close to MOA, providing the transportation to and from work each day. The employees in question are on visitor visas, allowing them to visit—but not work—for a short period of time.
While it is unclear whether or not this is a case of forced labor, a story previously published in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal points to one possible reason for the illegal employment: lucrative returns. In 2006, an Israeli woman identified as “Keren” worked at a mall kiosk for three months prior to holiday season, making $800 a day. With that money, she was able to pay for four years of college, an apartment, and a car in Israel.
If convicted, the defendants face a potential maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each harboring count, five years on the conspiracy count, and six months on each unlawful employment count.