Five franchisees and operators of 7-Eleven, Inc. stores located throughout Long Island, New York and Virginia plead guilty to committing wire fraud and concealing and harboring unauthorized foreign national employees, the DHS has announced. The September 22nd pleas were the result of an investigation that culminated in the June 16, 2013 raids of more than 50 stores throughout the United States.
“[The] nine defendants created a modern-day plantation system, with themselves as overseers, with the immigrant workers as subjects, living in their version of a company town,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said at a news conference in Brooklyn, New York.
The defendants used identities stolen from U.S. citizens, including the deceased and children, to conceal their scheme and harbored unauthorized workers at houses owned by the defendants.
“These defendants knowingly hired illegal aliens to feed their greed, stole the identities of unsuspecting U.S. citizens, and swindled more than 2.6 million dollars in wages from their enslaved workers,” said James T. Hayes Jr., Special-Agent-In-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York. “This case serves notice to employers – that they will be severely punished if they seek to profit on the back of an illegal workforce.”
“Using the 7-Eleven brand, the defendants dispensed wire fraud and identity theft, along with Big Gulps and candy bars. In our backyards, the defendants not only systematically employed illegal aliens, but concealed their employment by stealing the identities of children and even the dead,” U.S. Attorney Lynch concluded.
In addition to the forfeiture of the franchises, the defendants agreed to forfeit five houses, valued at over $1.3 million, and to pay $2,621,114.97 in restitution for the back wages owed the workers.
In a statement, 7-Eleven, Inc. said it has fully cooperated with the investigation and will take aggressive actions to initiate I-9 and wage and hour audits of other franchisees, and will institute identity theft protection measures for all its franchisees’ employees.
Lynch said the workers would be processed through the system, with some who served as whistleblowers remaining in the country until the case is completed.