The U.S. Attorney's Office today unsealed two indictments charging nine 7-Eleven store owners and operators with wire fraud, steling identities, and concealing and harboring illegal immigrants.
The defendants are accused hiring "dozens" of illegal immigrants and giving them identities stolen from U.S. citizens. The illegal employees were allegedly housed in boarding houses owned by the defendants, and "substantial" portions of their wages were stolen.
“As set forth in the indictments, the defendants used 7-Eleven as a platform from which to run elaborate criminal enterprises," said Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. "From their 7-Eleven stores, the defendants dispensed wire fraud and identity theft, along with Slurpees and hot dogs. 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 the grave to steal the identities of children and even the dead. Finally, these defendants ruthlessly exploited their immigrant employees, stealing their wages and requiring them to live in unregulated boarding houses, in effect creating a modern day plantation system,”
14 7-Eleven stores in Long Island and Virginia have been seized in connection with the indictments. In addition five New York houses worth over $1.3 million have also been seized. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has stated that this was the largest criminal immigration forfeiture in its history.
The defendants were arraigned today at court houses in Islip, New York and Norfolk, Virginia. If convicted, they each face up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud and harboring illegal immigrants, as well as consecutive two-year sentences for each count of aggravated identity theft.
“The 7-11 franchises seized today will be better known for their big fraud than their Big Gulp," said James Hayes, special agent-in charge for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations. "As alleged, the franchise owners knowingly and repeatedly employed an illegal workforce and abused and exploited that workforce for more than 13 years. This charged criminal scheme had a vast detrimental effect on both the employees who were overworked and cheated out of wages, as well as the more than 25 American citizens whose lives were upended by the theft of their identities in furtherance of the scheme.”