New York -- Nine owners and managers of 7-Eleven stores across Long Island (New York) and in Virginia were charged on Monday of harboring and hiring dozens of illegal immigrants and paying them using sham Social Security numbers.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn were also investigating some 40 other 7-Eleven franchises in New York City and elsewhere, the New York Times reported. The probe ranks as one of the largest criminal immigrant employment investigations ever conducted by the Justice and Homeland Security Departments.
The charges and two indictments were announced at a news conference on Monday in New York City. Officials at the news conference said the defendants hired more than 50 illegal immigrants, provided them with more than 20 identities stolen from United States citizens, including children and dead people, put them up at houses owned by the defendants and stole substantial portions of their wages. Most of the immigrants were from Pakistan,
“From their 7-Eleven stores the defendants dispensed wire fraud and identity theft, along with Slurpees and hot dogs,” Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn said. “In bedroom communities across Long Island and Virginia, the defendants not only systematically employed illegal immigrants but concealed their crimes by raiding the cradle and grave to steal the identity of children and even the dead.”
According to Lynch, the defendants “ruthlessly exploited their immigrant employees,” forcing them to live in unregulated boardinghouses and “creating a modern-day plantation system.”
The charges against the owners and managers included wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft, the Times said.
Scott Matter, a spokesman for 7-Eleven, said the parent company was aware of the arrests and seizures and “has been cooperating with federal authorities during their investigation.” Matter said the company would have no comment until it learned more about the case, the Times reported.