Local News

16 Fayetteville Mall Workers Detained for Being in U.S. Illegally

Posted December 7, 2006 9:24 p.m. EST

— More than a dozen people from the Middle East who worked at a Fayetteville mall are in federal custody, accused of working in the United States illegally.

The 16 people -- 15 who are from Israel and one from Turkey, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials -- were in the country on tourist visas and had arrived in Fayetteville within the past four months, an ICE spokesman said.

They worked at Cross Creek Mall and were being paid in cash by a vendor, according to investigators. ICE would not release the vendor's name or discuss possible charges, but said the illegal immigrants were being paid 15 to 25 percent of gross receipts.

They were detained Tuesday and are being held at a detention facility in Charlotte, awaiting deportation.

ICE officials said agents began investigating when Fayetteville police received a tip that the workers might have been involved with terrorism. A police spokeswoman said an officer visited a home at Village and Ireland drives where several workers were living and noticed suspicious documents and materials. She would not say what they were.

ICE determined they were not involved in any terrorism.

Mall management said the vendor is no longer welcome.

"Our business policy is: 'If you're not going to follow state and federal guidelines, we're not going to do business with you,'" said Cross Creek Mall spokeswoman Tammy Hopkins.