An Israeli citizen was sentenced to six months in federal prison for her role in illegally harboring Israeli and French immigrants in Baltimore housing in what federal prosecutors described as a more than $5 million scheme to profit off more than 100 undocumented workers.
Rona Zhfani was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Deborah K. Chasanow June 17 after Zhfani pleaded guilty to the unlawful employment of aliens in February. The totality of her sentence is still being determined in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. There are also further hearings scheduled to determine whether Zhfani should have to forfeit nearly $350,000.
Robert Bonsib, Zhfani’s attorney, said that while he and his client were hoping for a probationary sentence, he called the Chasanow’s judgment “fair.”
In her plea agreement, Zhfani admitted to her role in working for “Unlimited,” which prosecutors described as an operation that oversaw a number of cosmetic and skin care operations at mall kiosks in Maryland, New York, Virginia and Delaware that employed undocumented immigrants.
She joins Asher Sharvit, formerly of New York, N.Y., and Oren Sharvit, formerly of Dover, Del., who were sentenced to 18 months and 36 months in prison, respectively, after they pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Asher Sharvit was ordered Jan. 2 to forfeit $750,000, court records show.
Prosecutors wrote in federal charging documents that the three owned a number of companies, including Unlimited Treasures Inc. and Deja Vu Cosmetics, which would sell products at mall kiosks in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and New York.
Breaking News Alerts
According to Zhfani’s plea agreement, the companies “employed more than 100 aliens, including many individuals from France and Israel, who were not authorized to work in the United States” and communicated with the Sharvits via the secure messaging application WhatsApp to coordinate the conspiracy.
Through their businesses, the three sold cosmetic and skin care products at malls throughout the East Coast “with an emphasis on products originating from the Dead Sea region of Israel,” Zhfani’s plea agreement reads. Prosecutors wrote that the group would regularly use the trade names “Deja Vu” or “BioXage” when opening stores.
The three would recruit international citizens wanting to come to the United States through social media and “manpower recruiting companies,” according to Oren Sharvit’s plea agreement.
In one intercepted message, Sharvit admitted to telling co-conspirators “bring me me [sic] maximum of employees bcse [sic] we are going to conquest America!!!” his plea agreement reads.
Once the employees were brought to the United States, the three would lodge them at Baltimore apartments the Sharvits leased under their names while only paying workers in cash based on their sales, court documents state.
The scheme took place from 2008 to 2017, Oren Sharvit’s plea agreement reads, and prosecutors wrote in court documents that the companies made more than $5.4 million from 2013 to 2015.
In February 2017, Asher Sharvit sent messages with another employee and an unnamed co-conspirator to destroy documents, her plea agreement reads, and ultimately had more than 25 boxes of materials destroyed at a commercial shredding location.