Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Texas - ICE raids at Galleria and The Woodlands Mall nab 13 Israeli citizens
Houston - More than a dozen Israeli citizens are facing immigration charges for overstaying their visas after federal agents arrested them working at kiosks in the Galleria and The Woodlands Mall.
Shortly before the two malls closed late Wednesday, federal agents with Homeland Security Investigations arrested 13 Israeli citizens along with an immigrant from Moldova.
They were detained on administrative charges of remaining in the U.S. beyond the expiration date of their tourist and student visas, confirmed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Greg Palmore.
The eight women and six men detained were working at small kiosks inside the malls, selling various items, including scented soaps and Dead Sea bath salts.
The mineral salts are not associated with synthetic stimulants known as bath salts that are being manufactured and sold illegally, leading to a number of drug-related deaths.
Palmore said the detained immigrants remain in ICE custody and the agency's investigation is continuing. ICE is not releasing names of those detained last week, and no other details were available.
U.S. agents arrested known members of Israeli organized crime gangs in Las Vegas in 2011, who pleaded guilty to extorting money and attempting to take over the operation of mall kiosks owned by Israeli-born businessmen, according to published reports.
Israeli media reported a January 2010 kidnapping in the Mexican resort town of Cancun of an Israeli bath salts store manager, a crime attributed to business rivals.
A spokesman for the Israeli consulate in Houston said they had no comment on the mall arrests.