Nine owners and managers of 14 7-Eleven stores in New York and Virginia were charged for two elaborate schemes after an illegal immigration probe. Eight have been arrested, but one of the managers is still at large.
Since 2000, owners Farrukh and Bushra Baig, and their managers hired more than 50 illegal immigrants. Some were even smuggled in from Pakistan and the Phillipines. According to the Wall Street Journal, more than 20 identities were stolen from the 7-Eleven schemes. The identities included an 8-year old child, and a Coast Guard cadet who received a tax bill from a 7-Eleven he had never even been to. In addition, managers forced the immigrants to rent from them, and to work long hours.
Loretta Lynch, a Brooklyn, N.Y. attorney called the managers’ scheme a “modern plantation”. Lynch said the managers constantly threatened the immigrants. She said, “Immigrants were routinely forced, under the threats of job loss or deportation, to work upwards of a 100 hours per week.”
ABC News reported that 18 workers were detained, including some who alerted authorities of the fraudulent activities.
As for the managers, USA Today said they face up to 20 years of prison for wire fraud conspiracy, identity theft, and other charges (hiding illegal immigrants) if convicted. The managers will appear in court Monday.
In addition, NBC New York said the government seized the franchise rights of the 14 stores, and the five homes where immigrants were forced to stay. Ten of the stores were in New York, and the other four in Virginia. The homes were in Long Island.
According to CNN Money, authorities are not yet through with 7-Eleven. James Hayes Jr., a special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Securities Investigation said at least 40 more stores are being investigated. According to the New York Times, officials said this is one of the largest criminal immigrant employment investigations ever conducted by the Justice and Homeland Security Departments.
Businesses beware. Authorities are cracking down.