Judges in 2 Florida Cases Announce Stiff Penalties on Immigration Law Violators

By David North on August 3, 2023

Two federal judges in two unrelated Florida-based cases lowered the boom earlier this week against two different kinds of immigration law violators, laying on three multi-year prison sentences and many millions in penalties.

The longest prison term — 65 months — was given to Robert Matthews, an EB-5 developer whose failed Palm Beach hotel project has been around since 2006. As we reported some years ago, he used photos of himself and then presidential candidate Trump, and others photos with ex-president Bill Clinton, in his efforts raise EB-5 funds. He managed to raise more than $30 million from 61 Chinese investors allegedly to restore the hotel, and then lost that money in series of other schemes, including efforts to defraud both TD Bank and JP Morgan Chase Bank, according to a report by Law360.

The EB-5 (immigrant investor) program provides a family-sized set of green cards to aliens who invest a stipulated amount of money in a DHS-approved project, usually in real estate. That minimum is now $800,000; at the time of the Palm Beach project, it was $500,000.

The other and more recent case evolved further south, in Florida’s Key West, where a gang of aliens from the republic of Georgia (Tbilisi, not Atlanta) ran a string of staffing agencies that hired illegal aliens for hotels and bars and stiffed the federal government of millions in taxes owed, according to another Law360 article.

In this case, the lead defendant, who worked for the Paradise Hospitality companies, is Eka Samadashvili, who is identified as the companies’ bookkeeper and sounds like the chief conspirator. She pleaded guilty in April to both harboring illegal workers and obstructing the collection of federal taxes. She must repay $8.5 million in federal taxes and serve three years in prison.

One of her colleagues, former champion weightlifter Davit Pavliashvili, was sent to prison for 18 months and ordered to repay $16,000 in unpaid income taxes. Another colleague got four months in prison.

It is good to see prison terms for these “white collar” crimes.